Book Review: American Tumbleweeds by Marta Elva (Four Stars)

Book Review: American Tumbleweeds by Marta Elva

Four Stars

“Tragedy of condemning children to the consequences of their parents’ deeds.”

Compelling and heart breaking. An already-fragile family rips apart in the border-straddling communities of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, isolating its youngest member at a vulnerable time of her life. Inez’s sad tale of paradise lost gains complexity and depth with the inclusion of her parents’ and grandparents’ struggles and often-cross-purposed help. Notable first novel.

“Children’s resilience soothes the soul and breaks the heart.”

A coming-of-age tale of a Mexican-American teen in the late 1960s. Elva strikes cultural chords which reverberate through the story. The 60s scrambled many values, loosening families and communities from traditional anchors. (I know, I lived two states and a universe away in 1966-68.) Straddling two cultures and an international border increases the confusion. Guilt—assumed and assigned—and forgiveness, or the lack of it, contributes to intergenerational conflict and misunderstanding.

“There is no such thing as innocent until proven guilty, not in the court of everyday people.”

Teens can ruin their lives almost before they’re start. The Dutch proverb “We grow too soon old and too late smart” is especially true of teens. They have insufficient experience and maturity to deal with bodies which mature before brains. And parents may unwittingly make matters worse, especially when engaged in intergenerational warfare which they seek to hide from the children. Sometimes the children must lead the adults. The choices you make, make you.

“The disgrace of having to protect children from the parents.”

Writing for English readers, Elva includes many Spanish expressions which the reader can usually decipher from context. Depending on the reader’s exposure to Spanish, that process occasionally throws the reader out of the flow. The reader must stay engaged to detect all the real and heart-breaking cross currents.

“Loving someone who resents you is torture.”

A family divided and partly defined but not predestined by an international border. Sometimes acting with the best intentions makes matters worse.

“If you’re going through hell keep going.” Winston Churchill

(Disclosure: I received this book free in exchange for my promise of an objective review.)


4 thoughts on “Book Review: American Tumbleweeds by Marta Elva (Four Stars)

  1. An enlightening review. You’ve given the reader a clear idea of what is at stake for the book’s protagonist, and her family. I want to read the book. Thank you.

  2. Pingback: Book Review: American Tumbleweeds by Elva (4 stars) | Misty Midwest Mossiness

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