Sunday, August 30, 2015
“We Never Asked For Wings”
Chico High School graduate Vanessa Diffenbaugh, author of the highly acclaimed “The Language of Flowers,” returns with the story of Leticia Espinosa (Letty), a thirty-three-year-old mother of two, by different fathers, struggling to make sense of life in a poor section of the Bay Area.
“We Never Asked For Wings” ($27 in hardcover from Ballantine Books; also for Amazon Kindle) is about transformative change. “Letty had been a teenage mother, despondent and suffering from a heartbreak she’d tried hard to drink away.” Now Alex was fifteen, Luna six. For all of their lives they had been cared for by Letty’s parents, Maria Elena and Enrique.
Though Letty had been born in the US, her parents were undocumented. “They had stayed for the birds,” Alex realized. “Unless it was to return to Mexico, his grandfather had refused to leave his perch beneath the Pacific Flyway. …”
Letty “knew nothing about children. … So she went out and got a job, and then another, and then a third, while Maria Elena stayed home. … When she wasn’t working, she’d been asleep or hungover. … For fifteen years that had been their arrangement, and it would be their arrangement still, if Enrique hadn’t gone home to see his dying mother and not come back.” Enrique is a master artist using bird feathers, and now they belonged to Alex.
When Maria Elena leaves to join her husband in Mexico, Letty must learn how to care for her children. Something begins to grow inside her, “a glimmer of curiosity, a desire for knowledge she hadn’t felt since high school.” She meets Rick at her bartending job, and when Alex’s dad, Wes (now a doctor at Stanford) returns to their lives, Letty must make a crucial choice.
Young love begins to grow between Alex and neighbor Yesenia. Alex is smart, and Letty, through a bit of deception, manages to enroll him in a top tier high school, where his brilliant science fair experiment (about bird feathers and climate change) threatens to bring their world crashing down.