A brain-damaged teenager struggles to reconstruct herself and her shattered world in an electrifying first-person narrative. After an auto accident, Sandy awakens next to the gurney on which her sister Penny’s body rests. The nurses express surprise that she’s alive; the doctor holds out no hope either, and Sandy, after a brief stay in Intensive Care, is sent home to die. Against all odds, she hangs on; in the hallucinatory company of Penny, plus a series of Civil War soldiers converging on nearby Shiloh, Sandy slowly learns to walk and talk again, to find accommodations with her uncooperative, badly injured body, to reach through the constant pain and noise in her head. She describes her progress with unimpaired intelligence; in a measured, almost detached tone that will grip readers from the outset Sandy recounts victories and defeats in her battle against the “terrorists” and “mischievous voices, disobedient beasts and broken machines” in her brain. She notes external signs of her internal healing: Random jumbles of letters become understandable words again; she takes ever longer rambles about the farm; she refuses to take the strong tranquilizers the doctor has prescribed; and she accepts that Penny is gone. Woodruff fits Sandy with a distinct, individual voice, a past life of which, heartrendingly, she recalls only traces, and a strong supporting cast led by her sad, loving mother. A powerful, extraordinary story. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: July 15, 1998

ISBN: 0-930773-50-0

Page Count: 172

Publisher: Black Heron

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


Eddie, a young Mexican-American scraping by in the mean streets of Fresno, California, counts four dead relatives and one dead friend in the opening, in-your-face lines of this new novel from Soto (Snapshots from the Wedding, p. 228, etc.). In bleak sentences of whispered beauty, Eddie tells how he dropped out of vocational college and is attempting to get by with odd jobs. His aunt and friends want him to avenge the recent murder of his cousin, but Eddie just wants to find a way out. Everything he tries turns soura stint doing yard work ends when his boss's truck is stolen on Eddie's watchand life is a daily battle for survival. This unrelenting portrait is unsparing in squalid details: The glue sniffers, gangs, bums, casual knifings, filth, and stench are in the forefront of a life without much hope``Laundry wept from the lines, the faded flags of poor, ignorant, unemployable people.'' Soto plays the tale straightthe only sign of a ``happy'' ending is in Eddie's joining the Navy. The result is a sort of Fresno Salaam Bombay without the pockets of humanity that gave the original its charm. A valuable tale, it's one that makes no concessions. (glossary) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-15-201333-4

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet