Four Latina sisters research their mysterious ancestry.
There always seem to be more questions than answers for Loretta, Bette, Rita and Sophia Gabaldón. Loretta begins the family’s tale in 1966. The adolescent girls are still reeling from the loss of their mother. Fermina, an ancient Native American with a strong spiritual side, has filled the shoes of the Gabaldón matriarch. Before Fermina’s death, she promises each girl a special gift. But the wizened old lady never clarifies the nature of her gift and the girls spend the next two decades trying to discover their inheritance. Each sister takes a turn narrating this tale of a scrappy California family (the father and the lone brother are ancillary characters—this book is all about women). Absent a mother, the teenage girls find lots of trouble—these women can’t quite seem to get their relationships right. Bette latches on to losers and criminals before deciding to go it alone as a single mom. Loretta throws herself into veterinary studies and leads a monkish existence. Sullen Rita embarks on a career that leads her to mix with society’s outcasts and leave her family far behind. And the baby, Sophia, perhaps makes the biggest mess of her life as she packs on the pounds and attaches to a good-for-nothing loaf. Perhaps if they come to terms with their past, they will break free from the shackles that bind them to unrewarding relationships. López (Soy la Avon Lady and Other Stories, 2002) jam-packs this work with drama, the highlight being an ill-fated Route 66 adventure in 1983.
An overly ambitious novel that spans decades and covers a century’s worth of Fermina’s history. The flashbacks may be skipped; the Gabaldón sisters alone offer ample fodder.