Nieves-Powell, a writer, director and producer whose credits include the off-Broadway show Yo Soy Latina!, makes her fiction debut with this novel about a 30-something Latina mom looking for her true self amid the demands of work and family.
Idalis and her best-friend-since-childhood Selenis love to recall the great nights of their youth, spent salsa dancing at Club 90 in the Bronx. Dressed in stretch pants and bolero jackets, they ruled the dance floor. Now, 15 years later, they are mothers in Staten Island, dissatisfied with their husbands and their lives. Idalis, a secretary for a Manhattan ad agency, is legally separated from Manny. She loves him and his sexy ways, but his machismo—refusing to help with child care or housework—has made her doubt their marriage. Selenis, mother of three and caretaker of her increasingly demented mother, discovers that her husband is addicted to Internet porn. The women begin to despair. Then Idalis’s agency promotes her (her first task is working on a new Latino account) and she meets a handsome African-American banker. Could things be looking up? Not so fast. Idalis soon realizes that she is trading one set of problems for another. Her new beau has a bad habit of not calling when he says he will, and the Latino client wants the agency to market a Latina doll that is sure to tank. Should Idalis tell the client the truth about his product or should she keep her mouth shut to secure her promotion? This contrived plot point combines with other equally staged scenes (Manny’s oversexed barely legal girlfriend and Idalis’s boss’s preposterous lecture on reverse racism) to dampen what is the novel’s strength: its vibrant first-person narration, which really sings, as in the scene in which the girlfriends have a reunion night at Club 90, where they find a posse of old friends…and realize that things have changed.
Chica lit that boasts strong narration but is hampered by some lackluster plotting.