Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review: We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Title: We Never Asked for Wings
Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: 18th August 2015
Pages: 320
Book Source: Random House Publishing & NetGalley

Synopsis: For fourteen years, Letty Espinosa has worked three jobs around San Francisco to make ends meet while her mother raised her children—Alex, now fifteen, and Luna, six—in their tiny apartment on a forgotten spit of wetlands near the bay. But now Letty's parents are returning to Mexico, and Letty must step up and become a mother for the first time in her life.
 
Navigating this new terrain is challenging for Letty, especially as Luna desperately misses her grandparents and Alex, who is falling in love with a classmate, is unwilling to give his mother a chance. Letty comes up with a plan to help the family escape the dangerous neighborhood and heartbreaking injustice that have marked their lives, but one wrong move could jeopardize everything she's worked for and her family's fragile hopes for the future.
 
Vanessa Diffenbaugh blends gorgeous prose with compelling themes of motherhood, undocumented immigration, and the American Dream in a powerful and prescient story about family.

My Thoughts:
It must be a daunting task to follow on from the success of a first novel like The Language of Flowers (which I adored beyond words.) Blood, sweat and tears were obviously poured into this story, you can feel it. Wings may not have quite the same charm as flowers but it's quirky with Diffenbaugh's trademark beautiful prose and take, on timely social issues. I couldn't put it down.

When Letty's undocumented parents abruptly return to Mexico, 33 year old Letty Espinosa finally steps up to 'mother' her 15 year old son Alex, and 6 year old Luna, a precocious child who would have even the Mother-Theresa-of-mothers, tearing her hair out.  

The story alternates between Letty's perspective and Alex's. I cared about all the characters. The burden of responsibility on Alex's young shoulders made my heart ache. Letty isn't an easy character to like, she's hardened with a long history of poor choices and when those poor choices involved her children, I really didn't think I'd connect with her. But Diffenbaugh writes flawed characters with truth and compassion ... I was drawn in, I began to understand and empathise rather than judge. And then I cheered as she chose a new path and made changes. 

"Migrating birds reorient themselves at sunset. The exact reason is unknown, but at twilight, just when the sun drops beyond the horizon line, birds flying in the wrong direction correct their paths all at once". 

I liked the parallel between migrating birds and people correcting mistakes and their paths. And I loved the science and memory in feathers (who'd have thought) ... being a little cryptic here as you just have to read this yourself.

We Never Asked For Wings highlights not only the struggles for undocumented immigrants but the differences between the haves and the have-nots, poverty, education and housing opportunities, bullying. But, it also illustrates the innate goodness of people, the kind of goodness that restores your faith and ignites that little spark of hope.  

It's a story about family and choices and finding your true place. Mistakes don't have to define you. Choosing a new path takes courage but brings hope for a different future.

“'I love it,' Letty said, kissing Luna's cherry lips and wondering how a half-eaten lollipop could somehow taste like a reason to stay.”

I think the ending would have benefited from a few more pages but I'm seriously crushing on Vanessa Diffenbaugh's writing. 

Connect with Vanessa Diffenbaugh











16 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Yes!! but The Language of Flowers is still my favourite. Have you read it yet Julie?

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  2. I saw this book on Netgalley but was unsure whether it would be worth trying. Glad to see you enjoyed it so much! Great review!

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    1. Thanks Brandie, I couldn't resist. Vanessa Diffenbaugh has the most beautiful writing style, I'll read whatever she writes. And I wasn't disappointed lol

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  3. I still haven't read The Language of Flowers so maybe that's a good thing so I can't compare the two. Glad you liked this one and found a way to connect with Letty even when she wasn't always likable as a protagonist. I'm currently reading a YA novel about undocumented immigrants (Dream Things True).

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    1. Hope you read both at some point Christina, Vanessa Diffenbaugh is a favourite author. Dream Things True.is new to me but I'll check out your thoughts.

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  4. Could be a good match for me :)

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  5. I am so glad you liked this book. I loved Language of Flowers and knew my expectations for this book would be high.

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    1. It will take a bit to surpass The Language of Flowers but I hope you like this one as much as I did Nise.

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  6. I haven't read the flowers book but have seen this book highlighted in a few places - given great notice on the Romantic Times website. (Mainstream fiction section!) It sounds like one I'd really like to read as well as her previous one. Yet this morning before I got out of bed I was giving myself a strict talking to about buying books and then just not getting to them. The limitation of being human and not being able to read everything! I hope I do get to this one though. Enjoyed your review - as I always do!

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    1. I hear you Kathryn, I berate myself over the exact same thing. And then I buy anyway, rinse, repeat lol. But I had no chance of resisting this one, The Language of Flowers was a favourite read, I seriously fell in love with Vanessa's writing and will now read everything she writes :)

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    2. Oh go away and stop tempting me! I will definitely keep both in mind and hopefully read one or both in early 2016. Perhaps a good one to begin the year.

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    3. What a good idea lol. The Language of Flowers ... your first read for 2016. Hey I think it's only fair to reciprocate on the book must-reads ;)

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  7. I wasn't sure about this one but your review has put it on my TBR list!

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