Friday, July 22, 2011

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

by Julia Alvarez

This story is written in a very unique way - starting with the Garcia girls being adult women and ending with them during their childhood years. So instead of going forward in time like most books, this one goes backwards. It begins in New York, after the family has fled the Dominican Republic, and the reader doesn’t really find out how they escaped until close to the end of the book.

It was more of a composite of short stories, than an actual novel with a plot, climax and conclusion. Each chapter was a new story, with one of the central characters, Carla, Yolanda, Sandra, and Sofia, as the focus. It was hard to get a good idea of the characterization since the chapters kept skipping around, so it was hard to remember who was the poet and who was the crazy one and who was the rebel child. It almost seemed as though the four girls were one person with different interests.

Each chapter was interesting in its own way, which kept me reading til the end. I liked the stories well enough; the one about Mami being an amateur inventor and the one about Sandi (or was it Sofia?) wanting a dancing doll after seeing the floor show while out to dinner with her family and their doctor friend both stick in my mind. Ms Alvarez definitely knows how to use words to create a beautiful image. Her scenes were very vivid and lively and had a hint of Hispanic flair.

Reading about the culture of the Dominican Republic during the time of Trujillo, as well as what it was like for the Garcias in New York after they immigrated, was a learning experience. But maybe since it was so choppy and the stories separated instead of coming together as a whole, I couldn’t really get into it. Others I know have enjoyed it, but it just wasn’t for me.

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