THE PLOT: How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvares is about four sisters from the Dominican Republic. Told in reverse, it recounts the families’ move to America and flight from Dictator Trujillo. It shows how each of the sisters attempt to blend in with American customs but can’t escape their Caribbean/Latinx heritage. The lead character, Yolanda Garcia, is a poet and the novel starts with her returning to the country where she was born to find herself.
RATING: Something about this book buried itself in me and I’ve got to give it five stars. It’s a character driven novel, which looks at relationships between the siblings and their parents as they grow up and forge their own lives. There’s something poignant simmering underneath the novel about growing up, change, heritage, and culture.
GOOD BITS: The structure of the book is told in reverse with Part 1 taking place in 1989-1972, Part 2 in 1970 – 1960 and Part 3 in 1960 – 1956. Chapters alternate between the sister’s perspectives, in first or third person, and an overall narrator in the third person. Although this might seem confusing, I loved the changes in pace and the characterization of each person as they got younger. There’s a sense of dreams lost and found, including the nexus of how they became who they were at the start of the novel. Each of them has a distinct voice, partly to do with their place in the family, and I love how each character perceives each other.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: Disclaimer – do not read this book if you love strong plots. Essentially, not much happens, but I love it because of the characters and writing style. However, I was a little disappointed that the book didn’t come full circle and return to the ‘modern day’ story of Yolanda returning to the Dominican Republic.
OVERALL: I’d highly recommend this novel for those who like family sagas or introspective character studies. It meanders along and you get to know the family intimately, while still feeling like you want more. As soon as I finished the book, I wanted to read it again to see if I missed any hints in the earlier chapters. It has it’s faults and plenty of people won’t like it, but there’s something beautiful and commonplace and domestic, which made it a five star read for me.