Monday, July 1, 2013

Review: FOREVER MY LADY by Jeff Rivera

Dio Rodriguez grew up on the streets and knew all too well the hard, cool feeling of the barrel of a gun tucked down the back of his jeans. But his hard exterior softened when he met Jennifer. Jennifer understands Dio like no one else and makes him want to be a better man. Suddenly a drive-by shooting lands Dio in a prison boot camp and sends Jennifer to the hospital. When Dio learns that Jennifer is pregnant, he realizes that he must find a way to turn his life around and return to his lady. But can trainee Rodriguez get his act together among the hardcases in prison? And will Jennifer be waiting for him if and when he does?

Reviewed by: Celia
Rating: 4 stars

Review: What's a jaina? Not being too familiar with the Chicano slang, that was my first question right from the start of this book. And what was a ruca? Admittedly, I found myself scratching my head at these words, but, at the same time, I couldn't help but be drawn to the raw boldness of the dialogue, a dialogue drooling with a refreshing wit and fierce overtone.

Forever My Lady is the story of Dio, a young Latino from the barrio who has always been judged by his vulgar and robust appearance, but that all changed as soon as he met Jennifer―his lady.  No one could really understand the love he had with her, especially not her parents, who were "like cold tamales that used to be piping hot." (25) It seemed that they would be together forever...until that frightful night that separated them, sending him to prison camp and her to the hospital. Suddenly, she realized that Dio was NOT the guy for her, that she could do better. And who wouldn't think that they could do better than a trouble-making thug? Still, Dio believed that she was the one and would do whatever it took to get her back.

His letter begging her to give him another chance was the same song performed by any gangster after a BIG screw up. Any promise to "straighten up" would be useless and would leave him right in the same spot.  I honestly hoped that Jennifer wouldn't fall for it. I thought that they should both forget about each other and get on with their lives. How naive is it think that someone could wait for you for 50 years? But Dio was a spicy pepper that wouldn't give, even with all that crap he put up with in the prison camp. Perhaps it was his undying love that helped him get through the camp, which was where he meets some funny odd-ball characters, all with their own story of how they got to be where they are. Even the sweet, little Jennifer has her story. This book is just a closet full of secrets.

Rivera's powerful words fill the reader with a fierce empathy. You can't help but feel a little pride as Dio begins to succeed little by little. As time goes by, Dio begins to gain compassion and learns to see that behind a rough exterior lies a beating heart of humanity.

A story of strength, resistance, and will power. A perfect liking to Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men with its colorful array of characters set against a backdrop of a gritty and desolated world, working like burros for a better life.

Please stay tuned for an interview with Jeff Rivera coming up next!

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