Because I need an Excuse Review #2: America’s Dream by Esmeralda Santiago

Review number 2! YAY!! This time, it’s not so much historical fiction as much as quite possibly a well written critique of America’s culture. Introducing: America’s Dream, by Esmeralda Santiago!
The book opens up in Puerto Rico, where the 28 year old maid and single mother goes to work at the hotel and finds out that her 14 year old daughter, Rosalinda, has run away with her boyfriend, Taino. America gets her married boyfriend, Correa, to find her and bring her back, but not without consequences. After Rosalinda gets taken after a huge fight with her mother and after Correa beats her savagely, America slowly decides to leave for New York to work as a housekeeper and nanny. Well, that’s the basic plot.
The main characters are Rosalinda, the resentful catalyst that starts all of the conflict, Correa, the abusive married boyfriend whose bipolar tendencies are overlooked by America, the main character and the descendant of La Casa del
Frances’s first ever housekeeper.
In the beginning, as I have already mentioned, Rosalinda runs away with her boyfriend and America starts looking for clues as to where she can find her only child. Then, we get introduced to her alcoholic mother who also birthed her at age 14-16, and as we learn later (spoiler!) she (America) ran away with Correa at age 14. So I got the over all impression of America just wanting to break the cycle of getting pregnant way too early. As the book goes on, America lands in her job in New York, and she starts to become friendly with her family on her mother’s side. I got a pretty good glimpse into the mind of a domestic abuse survivor and the character definitely introduces some very valid points about American culture that are still true today. This book does not reek so much of sex (for which I was somewhat disappointed, but since it didn’t really seem like a romance novel, it wouldn’t make sense for it to have graphic descriptions of sex). However, there’s a rape scene and pretty graphic violence in the beginning and really bad violence and a death (won’t say who it is) at the end, so no one under 13 should read this unless they’re mature enough to handle it. Unlike the first book I reviewed, this book is good for starting some pretty important conversations, but again, only if the child is mature enough to handle the conversation.

Overall impression?
I loved this book, and I’ll definitely recommend reading it. There is the occasional Spanish word sprinkled in and it kinda took away from the experience, especially since there wasn’t a glossary to translate what the word meant. Still, it was fairly easy to guess the word because of context clues, but some words were a total mystery. The characters were very well thought out, and I got a sneak peek into a domestic violence survivor’s head-even though the character was fake. I was completely hooked throughout the whole book and I will violently push it to you people through the awesome Inter-webs.
Rating: 5 out of 5.

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