|The Amado Women
"Sylvia Levine (nee Amado) had been brooding for months."
Southern California is ground zero for upwardly mobile middle-class Latinas. Matriarchs like Mercy Amado—despite her drunken, philandering (now ex-) husband—could raise three daughters and become a teacher. Now she watches helplessly as her daughters drift apart as adults. The Latino bonds of familia don't seem to hold. Celeste, the oldest daughter who won't speak to the youngest, is fiercely intelligent and proud. She has fled the uncertainty of her growing up in Los Angeles, California, to seek financial independence in San Jose. Her sisters did the same thing but very differently. Sylvia married a rich but abusive Anglo, and, to hide away, she immersed herself in the suburbia of her two young daughters. And Nataly, the baby, went very hip into the free-spirited Latino art world, working on her textile creations during the day and waiting on tables in an upscale restaurant by night. Everything they know comes crashing down in a random tragic moment and Mercy must somehow make what was broken whole again.
This might be the first book that I've read which shows a different side of Latino women. Usually, when reading books featuring Latinos, I find the light is a little dark and the setting a little poor (literally). I recently went to see Junot Diaz speak at a local College and he cried out for more Hispanic writing, and he vividly described what it's like to be a minority watching TV and reading books that are full of characters that live a completely different life. The Author, Desiree, gives us a side that reminds us of those similarities and gives us everything that is relatable within all different races. I love that! I gobbled up this story and felt SO much along the way, I didn't feel like an outsider peering into a secret life I knew nothing about. This is where I think we need to get, this is where we need to overcome the thought that people are so different, because deep down WE ARE THE SAME!
Okay, enough of the rant... let's get back to the book. The Amado Women is beautifully tragic, three daughters and a mother get together for family gatherings and each time we see the bonds change between them. The mother, Mercy, who is a proud woman with strength and conviction. The eldest sister, Celeste, who broke free of the family early on (only to succeed in her occupation to make her quite wealthy). The middle child, Sylvia, married young and ends up raising two daughters. The youngest daughter, Nataly, who jumps from ship to ship without figuring out her place in life. Each daughter has an extremely compelling story, we become enveloped with the hurt and/or excitement each one feels.
Starting with Nataly, who can't settle down or live a productive money-making life. I know this person, the artist... the one who struggles to follow her passion but is clueless to the stress it causes others in her life. I felt very close to Nataly because I consider myself an Artist, but I didn't go down the road Nataly did... I was too worried I wouldn't be able to support myself sufficiently. I admire this character but also know that life as an artist is too difficult to cling to that hope, reality bites!
Her sister, Sylvia, has a very different approach with life, marrying an abusive husband and having two children. I know many people who would also relate to this woman, and maybe open the eyes of some to see how horrible living that way is. I found myself relating to this character quite a bit when she started thinking about the big "D" word. How her mother kept nagging her and reminding her that she needed to stay with her husband to be financially secure and for the children, it gave me flashbacks to my own divorce and the way my family handled it.
Then we have, Celeste, the one with "everything", but we quickly realize that she has just as much heartbreak (if not more) than the other two sisters. Money doesn't buy everything, we all know this but sometimes someone hides behind it in order to clear their mind from the tragedy they've experienced. So life like! Every character sweeps in on a cloud of truth dust, I found myself in awe of how connected I felt with all of them... even though each one was so different.
P.S. - Want a digital copy of Desiree's other books Modern Cons or Human Cargo? Head over to www.desireezamorano.com, subscribe to her e-mail list and she'll give a choice between the two. Also, tomorrow check out an exclusive interview with the Desiree Zamorano herself! Even more? The next day she'll be doing a guest blog, right here on ShelfNotes. Make sure you check it out.
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