Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review: THE BOLERO OF ANDI ROWE by Toni Margarita Plummer

Winner of the Miguel Mármol Prize, this collection of inter-related stories delves into the life of Andi Rowe—a young woman of Mexican and Irish heritage—to give an intimate account of one family’s passage from the immigrant story to the American story, and the cycle of loss, adaptation, and rediscovery that is innate to that experience. Set largely in Los Angeles’s San Gabriel Valley, and crossing generations and borders, these stories focus on the quiet moments between explosions, where tension simmers just beneath the surface. From a Border Patrol agent whose own mother crossed the border illegally to a lonely woman seeking companionship with her hired day-laborer, characters seek revelation in the most ordinary of experiences, their actions filled with humor, longing, and honesty. In the tradition of Flannery O’Connor, Toni Margarita Plummer explores themes of grace and redemption as each story spirals toward a surprising but inevitable conclusion.

Reviewed by: Bela
Rating: 1 star

Review: The Bolero of Andi Rowe is a collection of short stories that are not necessarily centered on Andi. For instance, in “Olivia’s Roses,” a high school senior discovers the possibility of a college education along with her burgeoning womanhood from an attractive boy she meets at the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena.

The book is a well-written account of L.A. life colorfully drafted by a diverse set of characters. Each story attempts to enlighten the reader as the characters try to break through the barriers that entrap them; however, there often lay an obscurity that disoriented the reader throughout. The point of view would change, sometimes within the same story. Half the time I kept wondering who was talking.

The back story was misleading because it made you think that it was all about Andi and it wasn’t, even though some of the stories did reference her at times. I thought these stories would surround Andi, that we would experience them through her, that we would see what she saw and hear what she heard. Why was her name even in the title if she wasn’t the star?

I also noticed that the stories with the girls mainly involved the complexity of love, sex, and relationships. In fact, the details may have been a little too explicit for my taste.

This book seemed to be a novel weaved together by various short stories by the way Andi kept showing up in a lot of them, but I thought the composite was weakened by a lack of focus. All the details are so scattered that it is nearly impossible to see any clarity to the plot. You often forget the characters and what they were in relation to each other. For example, who was “Dad” in “Happy Hour?” Whose dad was he? And what was he to Andi? Was he her uncle or something?

By the end, I was dissatisfied with the overall structure. I’d have to say that the best story was “Olivia’s Roses,” because I thought it was rendered a little more genuinely, and I liked that it tried to promote a college education.

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