Friday, 10 July 2015

Book Review: WE NEVER ASKED FOR WINGS by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

We Never Asked for Wings

We Never Asked for Wings
Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Read: June 2015
Expected publication: 18 August 2015

Synopsis (Goodreads):

From the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Language of Flowers comes her much-anticipated new novel about young love, hard choices, and hope against all odds.

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:

I loved Diffenbaugh’s novel “The Language of Flowers” and was very excited to receive a preview copy of her new book “We Never Asked for Wings” on Netgalley.

At 16 years of age, Letty Espinosa  had everything going for her – young, pretty and smart with a handsome boyfriend who loved her, only the sky was the limit. Then she fell pregnant, and all her hopes and dreams were suddenly dashed. Now a 33-year old single mother of two working several menial jobs to bring in money for her family, she has been living a somewhat irresponsible  life of a single woman whilst her mother has been raising her two children. When her mother decides to return to Mexico to join her husband in their country of origin, Letty  is suddenly faced with the responsibility of being a mother – a role she realises she knows very little about. The journey is not an easy one, as both Letty and her children struggle to adapt and make ends meet.

With  “We Never Asked for Wings”, Diffenbaugh has again produced a moving story of redemption and reclaiming one’s life in the midst of adversity – in this case Letty is slowly reclaiming her rightful place as her children’s mother, learning the meaning of unconditional love and responsibility and what it means to be a parent. And whilst the journey is not an easy one and Letty makes a lot of mistakes, there is always an undercurrent of hope and good intentions.

Whilst flowers were the purveyors of symbolism and a means of communication in her earlier novel, Diffenbaugh uses birds and their migrational habits as parallels to the struggles her characters endure in her latest novel. Since migrants and their issues feature strongly in the novel, the bird analogy works really well here.

“We Never Asked for Wings” is a heartwarming and moving tale of motherhood, second chances and families – with a coming-of-age story thrown into the mix. I really enjoyed Diffenbaugh’s latest book  and look forward to reading more from this author in future.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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