First thing first, lets talk about the cover of this book - proudly proclaiming it's literary plaudits right there to entice the reader in. Now, I have a peculiar reverse snobbery about this kind of thing, especially when it takes up the front cover of a book. As a reader do I really care what critics thought about a book (ironic when you consider how many reviews I, personally, write), as a reader am I really that interested in what awards this or that book have won - particularly awards I have never before heard of. As a reader I care about the story and that is the top and bottom of it.
Initially I was captivated by the combined stories of Reyna and her Aunt Kiki. Particularly Kiki's history - a non-conformist who followed her wandering feet and was not afraid to look outside the tenets of her own religion and upbringing to embrace other cultures, other belief systems. Contrast this with Reyna who appears to have no belief system and feels singularly adrift in the world with only her young son holding her down.
This is going to be good, I thought. In truth, Part One of the book is indeed very good. Reyna's story becomes more immersive and you worry for her when Boyd is released from Riker's Island and becomes involved with a cigarette smuggling operation. You can feel her emotions seeping off the page and just as you are turning the pages to find out what happens next and how she is going to 2rise above" you hit Part Two and things start to disintegrate.
They disintegrate because Part Two is a series of vignettes about disparate people who are linked only to Kiki or Reyna by a chance encounter or a bit player in the story knowing them. It rapidly descends in to a series of medium length tales about people that we know for a handful of pages then never hear from again, we never hear how their stories turn out. In fact, we never really hear how Kiki and Reyna's stories turn despite them being revisited in Part Three.
I was disappointed in this as I felt that somehow I had been misled by the blurb of the book. What does Darisse's tale have to tell us about the people this book purports to be about? How does it help us to know about Teddy? What illumination does Dieter, Bruno and Steffi's story shed on Kiki? The answer, for this reader, is that they don't. The sad fact is that these are all stories that are stand alone and could have been told with no relation to the people the blurb tells us this story is about it.
Maybe I missed the point, after all it won all these awards. Maybe I just didn't enjoy it. Maybe I just didn't "get it" and should leave something literary for those who do. Maybe it should have been marketed better.
The writing itself is actually very, very good and the author's narrative voice swoops and glides through language and creates believable characters that are interesting.
THIS IS AN HONEST REVIEW OF A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK RECEIVED FROM READERS FIRST.