Growing up in Mexico before the Revolution, strong-willed Elâ€šna goes against Pap's orders and the custom of the time to learn to read (""Eiâ€šna took to education like a bird to the air"") and to marry Pablo, a poor Indian with no inheritance (""There was a peacefulness about him that felt like ancient wisdom""). Elâ€šna is a happy mother of four and Pablo has become a famous artisan (his sombreros are known even to Pancho Villa) when he dies suddenly in an accident. Taking to heart his deathbed prediction of a terrible war, Elâ€šna flees her home and struggles as a poor immigrant so that her children can become Americans. In her first novel, Stanley (The True Adventure of Daniel Hall, 1995, etc.) makes Elâ€šna a one-dimensional figure, but she's such a heroic proponent of following your own heart that she stands above the sentimental story and keeps it involving.