Friday, August 2, 2013

Review: TREE OF SIGHS by Lucrecia Guerrero

Summary: After the sudden and tragic death of her parents, Altagracia faces an uncertain future with a bitter and secretive grandmother. When the two sink into poverty, the young girl ends up with a cruel woman who takes her to the United States, changes her name to Grace, and puts her to work as a full-time domestic servant. Tree of Sighs is the story of Grace's journey to uncover her past as she straddles two cultures in the search for her own identity. After escaping servitude and imprisonment, Grace endures life on the streets and a succession of jobs, and she eventually lands in a comfortable marriage. But a phone call from a person in her past sets her on a journey to the border, where she meets a man who holds the key to her past, learns the truth about her grandmother, and ultimately finds herself.

Reviewed by: Sandra L.
Rating: 3 stars

Review: “There was something soothing about words, how they could transverse into a solution to a problem.” (4) And Guerrero’s words are as soothing as they come—both lovely and poetic.

The writer gives us a story of a woman harboring a secret. Before she was Grace, she was Altagracia, born and raised in Mexico, who was suddenly uprooted to the Americas. She thought she would never have to think about the past again, but then a phone call takes her on a journey back to old memories. It is the story of a woman’s reminiscence of her buried past and physical return back home (Mexico.)

After becoming Grace, the reader learns what she had to go through to survive. She ran away from her host mom to escape the imprisoned life of a servant to hang out with a group of wretched kids from the streets, where she soon learns that “[Guys are] like cockroaches…Turn off the lights and in no time, the little bastards are crawling all over you.” (101) This then leads to her routine of binge-drinking and promiscuity in her early 20’s, sinking her further into the desolated misery of her life. 

Ultimately, this book was about a search for identity, a search for belonging, a search for a home and safety. She once said that “home is where the heart is. Where was her heart?” (120)

The best part was toward the end when she finally had to come clean with her husband of who she used to be. Could you really blame him for being upset? Even though you detest the lies of Grace, you can’t help but feel a fraction of sympathy and understanding for Altagracia. After all, it wasn’t her fault.

And as soon as Grace confronts her grandmother, more history unfolds and a buried past resurfaces. The overwhelming amount of details often made the finale insignificant and humdrum. 

Overall, it was a well-written story, but it was a tad long-winded at times. It was filled with a ton of  metaphors and descriptions of trees. What was the meaning of the title? Tree of Sighs?  Mmmm, that was something that just left me pondering along with the other unanswered questions.

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