This was one of my favorite works, and amazingly, it seems to be Skyhorse's first and only novel. Every character is completely developed, so much that you are drawn deeply into each of their lives, knowing all of their insecurities and struggles. At first, it is not obvious, but each of the characters intertwine with the others in some interesting relationship or bond but, in most cases, the reader is left to figure out the relationship, until well into each chapter. This fictional work speaks in a very real way to stereotypes, class struggles, prejudices, immigration issues, urban decay and urban renewal, all in a single, very interesting community. I loved it. I just keep waiting for the book to be a Pulitzer winner or a lesser honor, such as one of Oprah's Book Club Picks! This book was said to be related to the Pulitzer Prize winner "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," which I also enjoyed, but it was nowhere near the interesting entanglement of characters developed in The Madonnas!
This was such a gripping account, I had to keep checking references to ensure that it was not fiction, or even based on a real story. The book is told in the third-person but such deep observations and presence that you even feel like you are right there, and the author must have been onsite more frequently than not, over the years. It was such a fascinating way of life to be told. Surprisingly, I did not have pity or disgust for the poverty and the way the families live in this common slum but, just the opposite. Most of the studied characters I could see rising upward, at least relatively speaking. They were enterprising, tireless, tried to pursue their education and advancement. It was really a fascinating study which made me wonder if this was really a necessary step in the evolution of developing countries and their people.
Perhaps I am showing my age but I struggled through this intense story, all the whiile thinking that my adolescent son might enjoy it more than I. It definitely touches on some painful issues of growing up and incorporates a wide variety of diversity in the issues of coming of age, but I found it unrealistic, and almost annoying, that the main character's darkest depression could be made whole by some other deeply troubled characters who randomly decided to befriend him. In my experience, high schoolers are rarely that confident or generous to be able to reach out to those that they believe are different or "uncool." I patiently waited for some relationships to form or some role models to emerge, but they didn't. I think it would be a meaningful read for an advanced teenager or young adult, perhaps to identify with these issues, as they were experiencing them.
Of one thing I am certain, this is the most depressing book I have ever read or listened to. As a fan of Faulkner and his Southern regional decadence, he has nothing on this book. I waited and listened for hours, in anticipation of just one of the characters achieving a dream or some ounce of happiness. No, didn't happen. As a Midwesterner myself, I treasure the tight family connections, work ethic and values but none of these were exemplified or rewarded in this book. They were actually criticized and sullied, only to find some examination in the death of certain characters. So sad....I just wanted so badly to have the characters experience some joy in their lives.
I thought I would love this book. It had all of the promise of a thriller, victim turning heroine, courtroom drama, childhood naive character....but when I listened, it just didn't seem to go anywhere. I am often frustrated when characters aren't fully developed nor does the plot have closure and I felt this, with this book. I never really figured out what happened to the antagonist, no closure around the feelings of the parents, etc. Sorry, I really, really waned to like it.
This book was an interesting read (or listen) because of the fortitude of the main character. It was also historically interesting, in terms of the dynamic of the TX, AZ and NM land over the last century or so. I just couldn't help to compare it to the real, heart-wrenching story of the author and her own memoirs. They were so real, so sad, and so loving. I yearned for more detail about Jeanette's mother, Rosemary, and an explanation of how her childhood formulated her into the kind of drifting mother she was. I never quite found it. Also, would have really enjoyed another narrator. Ms. Walls read more with factually than perhaps someone who was reading the text to whom it was more novel.
Only regret is that there are only 3 of the 5 stories from the actual book. Please come out with an unabridged full version!
I really did not get this book. I read it because it was so highly acclaimed by every site and made the coveted list on Oprah's Book Club. I am sorry to reveal that my expectations were not met. Some characters were never fully developed, such as Edward's mother, so it was difficult to relate to her emotional struggles throughout. Some of the relationships between the characters were lacking in details and once it got into the supernatural speculation, it lost credibility for me. The second half is definitely more moving than the first but then I left the book, feeling many questions were unanswered.....maybe that is what the author intended.
Not as good as Open House, not as rich in feeling. I found it very hard to fathom falling so deeply in love with someone over the course of a few weeks but maybe I'm just cynical.
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