Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Review: The Same Sky (Out Today!)

The Same SkyThe Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So who likes a good cry with their fiction?

This girl does. If you do, too, then grab this book and don't put it down. You won't want to, anyway. It is incredibly gripping, beautiful and horrifying at once. It's a story of a girl and a woman. A girl in Honduras whose mother left her to go to America (Carla). And the story of an affluent American woman who wants a baby (Alice). At first, I wasn't sure where the two storylines would intersect, but later on, it becomes clear. For much of the novel, I kept thinking how apt the title was. How can these two lives exist under the same sky?

A girl whose grandmother dies and she's left to raise her brother (at 10 years old) by herself in an increasingly dangerous, poverty-stricken area, where gangs roam and she is forced to pick through garbage for food and things to trade for food. Where her friends turn to prostitution to live, where her six-year-old brother becomes a drug addict and when her mother sends her a pretty dress for her birthday, all she can think is, I can't eat this.
And under that same sky lives a woman who aches for a baby of her own, but even as you feel her ache, you can't help but think how incredibly ungrateful and naive she is (and most Americans are, myself included) to think her life is rough. She has a semi-famous husband, a restaurant, a loving family, friends, neighbors who invite her over for margaritas and throw her parties. It makes you feel sick and helpless to see this woman so carelessly taking life for granted while never even imagining the depth of deprivation and suffering a child is going through when she sets off for America, riding 'The Beast' to get to her mother.

Now, a few years ago, I read Enrique's Journey: The Story of a Boy's Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother, a non-fiction look at immigrants trying to reunite with their families in America. So a lot of this wasn't exactly new. But Carla's struggles will rip your heart out. I cried at almost every chapter about her. And I have to say, they were the parts I really connected with, the ones that kept me up half the night reading. It would be a bit of a shock to re-enter Alice's privileged world the next chapter. But that was a good shock, and also kept the book from being just too damn depressing to read. They give breaks from the relentless horror or Carla's chapters.

I want to add about twenty adjectives to describe this book here, but none will do it justice. Read it. You won't be able to stop, and it will stay with you afterwards. I haven't read a book that made me really love reading in a while. It was about time I found one. I'm glad it was this one. The voice, the characters, the gritty, dirty awfulness of it were real. I wanted to save Junior so much it made me hurt. All I could think about was my own son, and how much I wanted to go and hold him and bury my nose in his hair and thank God for all my blessings. Be prepared to have your heart ripped out.

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