Sometimes I really struggle with a book, and yet I persist, for whatever reason- in this case, because the reviews were so consistently positive. And sometimes, I’m rewarded with something beautiful, something that puts everything that I struggled with before in context, and my feelings do a 180º, and I love the book. This happened on page 252. I don’t care how long it takes to get there, as long as I get there.
There were several things that I struggled with, primarily, the male voice of the protagonist. I know that was not the author’s problem, but mine, because his characterization seemed to be consistent with what I know of male Latino values. Next, there were the Spanish words, most of which I could ignore, getting the meaning from context, but being somewhat OCD when it comes to words, I just had to keep looking up the translations. Again, my problem, not the author’s. The third barrier to me really connecting with the book was the slang, or gang-speak, or, I don’t know what to call it. I literally dropped the book at page 73, thinking, “How is a sixty something white woman supposed to understand WTF this means?” Here is the passage: “His ‘stache drooped a little, and the soul patch under his lower lip looked bandido as hell.” (I know that’s tame, but I gave up on the more arcane ones that followed.)
This is a family saga, condensed. The patriarch is ailing, and his daughter has planned a 70th birthday party to celebrate his life, but his mother dies a week before, so the two events are scheduled back to back to accommodate out of town guests. The family has its array of characters: the prodigal son, the dutiful daughter, the son escaping his family to breathe and find himself, jealous in-laws, and on and on. But the patriarch is larger than life, and at first, I didn’t see that, but when I did I was totally won over.
When the ending of a book can bring the almost physical sensation of my heart filling up in my chest, I have to acknowledge that this was a very good book.
THE BEAUTY: “…when I’m gone and you see a hummingbird, say hello. That wil be me.”
Bumblebee hummingbird, found in Mexico. Image from The Internet IBC Bird Collection.
Hummingbirds are important to me. When I see one at our feeder, it makes my day. I don’t know why. I’ll probably never see this one in the wild, but I love this picture. I wonder which one Big Angel pictured when he made the comment above?
The family was crazy about pancakes. No hidden meaning. Just crazy about pancakes. They were, indeed, fluffy.
¾ C milk
2 T white vinegar
1 C all-purpose flour
2 T white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 T butter, melted
Combine milk with vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to “sour”.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk egg and butter into “soured” milk. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and whisk until lumps are gone.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with cooking spray. Pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the skillet, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip with a spatula, and cook until browned on the other side.