How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
It took me a long time to get around to this book, and even longer to get to this review. My apprehension of the experience was mostly because I thought I’d hate the story-telling.
Julia Alvarez’s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents is told from multiple perspectives, but the story is contained mostly (at least 98%) to the 6 members of the Garcia family. Especially the four sisters (the aforementioned Garcia girls).
Detailing the history of the family’s move from the Dominican Republic (affectionately known as the Island) to the U.S. where the novel chronologically progresses backwards from the four sisters’ adulthood in America to their childhood on the Island.
I picked it up because I was looking for fictionalized immigrant tales. I was once an immigrant myself, but I was a toddler when I arrived to Canada so I don’t remember my life outside my adopted country.
Overall I was pleased to be proven wrong. This story is so much more than a tale of packing up, moving and adjusting to a foreign country. Trust me. These girls lose more than their accents. Get your mind out of the gutter, now.
I don’t mean that kind of loss–although sex is mentioned, I mean that the Garcia girls are taken from their home in Columbia, or the Island, and they are forced to start new lives in the U.S. It’s about love and heartbreak, sorrow and loss, and old and new families.
What I disliked:
*Yolanda (Yo, Joe, Yoyo) was an annoying narrator. I don’t believe you have to like a narrator, only you have to be able to stand them long enough to understand what position they’re seeing things from. Yolanda was just, I don’t know, frustrating.
*I found the back-and-forth time leaps between the narrations could be jarring sometimes, even if the “chapters” were split up by different stories. So it was like a collection of short stories bundled together into a book.
*Pedophilia alert. Some random guy who saves them at some point early in their childhood basically loves screwing around with kids. Unfortunately I was in his mind for a few pages and I had to read through his appreciative eye over the Garcia girls (by this point they’re all well below the consent of age for sexual conduct).
What I liked:
*the distinction between the four girls’ voices—Carla, Sandra/Sandi, Yolanda (yes, yes. Even Yolanda) and Sofia/Fifi—so I never found myself confusing one character with another.
*the author’s choice of telling the story in smaller subjects/topics of the “chapters”. Like I said the book could be taken as a collection of shorter stories to build a bigger picture.
*the relationship dynamic between the family is extremely realistic. It has its ups and downs and I admire Alvarez’s touch here as an artist.