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 This bleak debut features violence and abuse so unrelenting that they quickly become routine. Blanca is in the hospital after a suicide attempt. Sections telling of her adulthood and attempts by the hospital staff to help her are interspersed with the sad story of her early life, beginning with her journey from Puerto Rico to New York City as a child. Benevolent adults are as believable as Santa Claus in Blanca's world. Her grandmother Paquita beats her often. Her father sexually molests her and threatens to kill her if she tells anyone. When she and Paquita return to Puerto Rico quite suddenly, Blanca first has some trouble readjusting, although she is once again thrust into a familiarly abusive environment. A bookworm, Blanca incurs the uneducated Paquita's wrath. In Puerto Rico she undergoes an illegal abortion and, at 17, begins an affair with a married man whose wife confronts her--not to challenge her but to say that should she decide to prosecute her lover for statutory rape, she would testify, since she too was 17 when she took up with him. Eventually they wed, and Blanca has a daughter. She divorces him after four years, when--in a dose of unexpected magical realism--an acacia instructs her to do so. Blanca is not a quick learner, though, and she falls in love with her boss at the Department of Justice, another married man. After graduating from college, she and her daughter, Ta°na, head to Boston, where Blanca will study at Harvard's Graduate School of Education. Ta°na experiences her mother's linguistic confusion in reverse, Blanca feels confused and lost, and pretty soon she decides to commit suicide--no surprise, since the book ends back where it started. Aside from the sparse hospital scenes, which stand out because they are more tangibly detailed, this suffers from an overheated style and adds little to the literary exploration of displacement. Multiculturalism cannot disguise a lack of originality.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1-55885-125-9
Page count: 199pp
Publisher: Arte Público
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1995