By Julia Alvarez
Uprooted from their family home in the Dominican Republic, the four Garcia sisters – Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia – arrive in New York City in 1960 to find a life far different from the genteel existence of maids, manicures, and extended family they left behind. What they have lost – and what they find – is revealed in the fifteen interconnected stories that make up this exquisite novel from one of the premier novelists of our time.
I first encountered Julia Alvarez when I read In the Time of the Butterflies a few summers ago. I liked that book, but found it overall to be so sad. This one is not sad, but contains more of her particular style.
As in the description above, this story moves backwards from the girls adulthood in America to their childhood in the Dominican Republic. Each of the chapters, the stories, are compelling. But the story overall seems to lack a clear narrative arc.
I’m on the fence with this book. In general, I enjoy books that seem to be more like a bunch of stories that somehow end up adding up to a complete story. I just don’t think it was very well achieved here. Maybe because the story was told in reverse.
I also felt the four sisters weren’t very well differentiated. Which is actually addressed early on in the novel, that they have always been “The Four Girls”. Still, as I founded into the last pages of the novel, I honestly couldn’t remember which sister grew up to do what.
Overall, this is a pretty enjoyable read and a good way to pass the time. But a standout? No.