Vignettes that poignantly evoke heritage and growth.


In these collected short fictional pieces, multiple narrators tell the story of a Mexican American family.

Sisters Paloma and Sofía “Chofi” Martinez are first-generation Americans; their parents, Francisco Martinez Castillo and Maria Helena Ramirez de Avila, were born in Michoacán, Mexico. In the United States, Francisco and Helena work hard at jobs available to illiterate migrants, as a seamstress or a construction laborer, for example. They move to the Los Angeles area, achieving home ownership and urging their daughters to attend college. Growing up, the girls make a practice of telling their dreams every morning. As their mother says, “Share them out loud with your eyes wide open, so your dreams can guide you through the world of the living.” Usually narrated by Chofi, the short chapters present vignettes following the sisters’ coming-of-age and the family fortunes. They attend school, gain a baby brother, learn to mambo, enjoy feasts and holidays, visit Mexico, deal with maturing bodies and feelings, spread their wings in college, and plan careers—Paloma as an accountant, Chofi as a journalist. Over time, they witness the sad decline of their father into alcoholism and rage. In her second book, Gutiérrez poetically conveys the Chicano/Chicana experience, often through vivid sensory details. A Tijuana marketplace, for example, presents a bright mosaic of “molcajetes, loterias, pinto beans, Peruvian beans, and tamarindo.” While experience rests on sensations and solid actions (making a living, a meal, clothing), the power of stories and dreams forges links to the sacred. Chofi’s troubled cousin Beto, for example, has tattoos she doesn’t find threatening because they connect with “the crosses, the thorns, paintings, and statues at churches. Like a church, he decorates his body with memories of pain.”

Vignettes that poignantly evoke heritage and growth.

Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-953447-99-9

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Flowersong Press

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.


The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.


An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet