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Yano Rios is on a flight from NYC to Santo Domingo when a mechanical error causes the plane to crash. There are no survivors, and his teenaged daughter Camino is devastated when the anticipation of her father’s yearly visit turns into unspeakable grief and sudden financial insecurity for her and her aunt. His other teenaged daughter, Yahaira, is equally devastated back in New York, after finding that her father’s yearly business trip has ended in tragedy. ⠀
Neither daughter has any idea that the other even exists, but while grieving they find each other and learn a few of the secrets their father carried between countries for 17 years.⠀
I feel as though this novel-in-verse tells a story I’ve heard variations of my whole life but have rarely seen so thoroughly told. It’s not unusual for women’s lives to be wrapped around men’s lies. What makes this book unique and refreshing is how remarkably non-judgmental it is. There’s not a lot of moralizing or villainizing going on (with one notable exception). Everyone and every choice is written through a lens of love. Even though I expected to be upset by some characters, I never was–the sense of community empathy Acevedo creates in these pages is far too great. She packs a lot of humanity into these verses; two lifetimes of grief, two families worth of betrayal, and foundations for a great future. I have no doubt that Yahaira and Camino are in a good place somewhere, many years after the end of the story–it ends on a sweet, hopeful note after beginning with tragedy. ⠀
Novels in verse seem to be a literary *thing* these days–I’m just not sure they’re mine. While I definitely appreciate the craftsmanship it takes to write a whole novel this way and I’m impressed by how much depth the format gave to the characters and their surroundings, I’m very picky about poetry and this took me a while to get into. I’m not in a hurry to read any more verse novels, honestly. I will check out Acevedo’s other work though–she has such a beautiful way with characters and I want to meet more of her people.
There’s a lot more that could be said about this novel–about its portraits of Dominican and Dominican diasporan life and how they converge and diverge, about the things it has to say about daughterhood and how important fathers can be, and about how deeply but non-performatively culturally Dominican the text is–I don’t know a lot of Dominicans and had to look a lot of things up as I read. But I’ll leave that to more literary heads than mine and simply say that while this isn’t the best thing I’ve read this month, it’s a worthwhile read with a lot of emotional depth and heart. I enjoyed it and think you might, too.
4 and half stars and some poetry night snaps to Clap When You Land.
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