Thursday, November 13, 2008

Review: How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

genre: fiction
rating: 3/5

There are four Garcia girls, very close in age. They spent their childhood on a family compound in the Dominican Republic, surrounded by a large and closely-knit extended family, waited on by masses of servants. This life of privilege and family stands in stark contrast to their lives in New York City, where the family was forced to seek refuge from political activities on the Island. As immigrants, life in New York was challenging and mysterious. Initially, the girls were often forced to endure the lot of an outcast as they tried to make their way through the concrete jungle of the city.

The story constantly switches narrators and time periods. While I finished the book with some sense of the family and its history - it felt more like a series of vignettes than a novel with a plot. The point of view we read the most of that of Yoyo, the third daughter, who seems to have lost the most of herself when they left the island. The idea of loosing things - the respect you can demand (either from your own choices or from your family background), your position, your sense of self, is a theme throughout the book. There is also the theme of old ways vs new ways as the girls contend with their "old world" father in a country that sees old as backwards.

I liked the book. I thought Yoyo was in interesting character, especially her obsession with words and how they affected her, that resonated with me. I think Alvarez has an interesting way with words and while it didn't keep my interest as well as a more plot driven novel would, I enjoyed the time I spent with it.


Trish said...

Sometimes vignette type novels work for me but I think the author needs to be extra crafty to pull it off. I had heard good things about this, but maybe I'll flip through the first chapter or so to get a feel before I read it.

Melissa said...

I'm liking it so far, except that I'm not sure I like the going backwards thing. I keep forgetting which of the daughters did what, and I'm finding I need to flip back and forth in order to figure everything out.

But taken individually, I like the stories well enough.

WorkingWords100 said...

Thanks for joining the 9 for '09 challenge. I am looking forward to your reviews.

Per: This work by Alvarez: it's my least favorite. I didn't like any of the girls in the US.

Her later works interest me more!

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