Reviewed by L.D.Y.
Trade, 326 pages, 2008
Reason for Reading: The cover just looked so vivacious that I knew these sisters were characters that I’d like to meet.
Synopsis: Before the Gabaldón sisters’ live-in-maid, Fermina, dies, she promises the four girls a gift, something she is giving to each of them because their mother died, and there are things that only a woman can pass along. Loretta believes she has the ability to heal animals; Bette the ability to lie undetectably; Sophia the power to make anyone laugh; and Rita the power to hex people. But the sisters will find, as they grow up during the 1960s through the story’s end in the 19 80s, that sometimes a gift is a curse and that the Pueblo woman who bestowed their abilities had a few secrets tucked away for them to discover…
Why you should read this book: López breathes life into these four animated sisters whether she’s writing about the challenging (yet magical) times of their childhood or the complicated lives as adults that they face in the years covered by the book. It’s very easy to believe that these young girls grew up as the people that they did, even though their actions and destinies may surprise you in places. Each of the girls is bursting with life: their loves, their children, their different personalities and choices – if you don’t have a sister, you’ll very quickly feel like you’re getting the full experience as you read. There is a feeling of magic and uncertainty amongst the sometimes-harsh realities of the sisters’ lives that lends the slight air of a fairytale to help keep you hooked until you find yourself up and reading way past your bedtime.
Why you should avoid this book: Because all of the characters are young and female, at the beginning of the book it can be easy to lose track of whose story you’re reading (as each girl takes turns narrating chapter-by-chapter), but you’ll quickly pick it up and find their voices coming through as loudly as their personalities.
Los Angles – 1966
The Sea Breeze Bungalows, on Clinton Street off Alvarado Street in Los Angeles, were constructed in the early 1940s to provide housing for single working women and bachelors. Though the Sea Breeze units are some forty miles from the Pacific Ocean, the developer, clearly torn between Art Deco and beachcomber styles, compromised by constructing these peach-colored cottages with one porthole window apiece and then raising a sign decorated with painted seashells on the front lawn. The largest of the five bungalows, originally inhabited by the owner, sits at the tip of the pentagon, farthest from the street.
‘How come you’re talking in Spanish?’ pipes Cary.
Loretta and Rita can be so stubborn I have to pound bruises into their arms, but at least they know when to keep quiet. Not Cary. He’s the all-time, family champion, blabbermouth king of the living pests, and no amount of sibling brutality can stop his questions. I give the old man credit for being patient with the kid. When he’s fed up, Dad just says, as he does now, ‘I do not know, I just do not know.’
When my father parks the car, he tells the younger kids to go inside and get something to eat. I reach for the door handle, but Dad grabs my arm. ‘Espérate.’
So I stay put, my head bowed like I’m about to receive a blessing, or a blow.
You can barely believe that this temple is yours, all yours. In fact, it’s the only thing of physical beauty you possess; because if Harold’s body is a temple, yours must be a mini-mart, a squat concrete square, shelves bulging with canned Vienna sausage, Cheese Nips, Fig Newtons, Tab, Ivory soap, Kotex, Right Guard, and cases and cases of Metrecal. So you fold the application back into your purse. You can almost see the benefits – whatever they might be – flapping out the window like winged monkeys.
Also recommended: The Girls by Lori Lansens; Names My Sisters Call Me by Megan Crane; Cover the Butter by Carrie Kabak.
Also by this author: Soy la Avon Lady and other Stories.
Fun tidbit: In 2001, LÃ³pez was awarded the Inaugural Miguel Marmol Prize for Fiction for a first book-length work of fiction by a Latino/a writer.
Would I read more by this author? I would read future books – I just loved the characters in this book.
© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2008