A moving historical novel about Texan siblings Elena and Joaquin Finney and their alcoholic, controlling mother, Caridad.
It’s 1986, and Elena is excited about the summer, the only time of the year her mother allows her some degree of freedom, as she gets to babysit for the holidaying Callahans. It’s the summer after high school graduation for Joaquin, and his future is wide open if only he can find the courage to leave Mariposa Island—and his family—behind. The narrative alternates between Elena and Joaquin in 1986 with flashbacks to Caridad’s past as the daughter of wealthy white Cubans living through the Cuban revolution and, later, life as a lonely teen refugee in Texas. Having lost her family, her language, and her history, Caridad struggled to adapt to a new life with a working-class foster family. Meanwhile, in 1986, Joaquin and Elena find different strategies to survive in a household of fear and manipulation. The daughter of a Cuban refugee, Mathieu (Moxie, 2017, etc.) empathetically delves into thorny questions of identity, trauma, abuse, choices, family bonds, and the lengths people will go to keep a measure of control in their lives. With a touch of romance, this gentle, multilayered novel comes with a dash of the unexpected thanks to the deeply unreliable nature of its narrators.
A beautiful portrayal of a Cuban American family during a crossroads summer. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 14-adult)