Monday, August 17, 2009

Damas, Dramas and Ana Ruiz by Belinda Acosta

Book description:
All Ana Ruiz wanted was to have a traditional quinceañera for her daughter, Carmen. She wanted a nice way to mark this milestone year in her daughter's life. But Carmen was not interested in celebrating. Hurt and bitter over her father Esteban's departure, she blamed Ana for destroying their happy family, as did everyone else. A good man is hard to find, especially at your age Ana was told. Why not forgive his one indiscretion? Despite everything, Ana didn't want to tarnish Carmen's childlike devotion to her beloved father. But Ana knows that growing up sometimes means facing hard truths. In the end, Ana discovers that if she's going to teach Carmen anything about what it means to be a woman, it will take more than simply a fancy party to do it...

Despite some excellent insights into the psyches of her characters, this book never really took off for me. As a person who took French in high school and college, I found the frequent use of Spanish (and sometimes Spanglish) distracting at best and irritating at worst as it kept wrecking the flow of the narrative for me. I did think the author captured some of the underlying emotions quite well (the teen-aged hostility of Carmen, the quiet uncertainty of older brother Diego, the truly tormented reality of cousin Bianca), in the end I just didn't find myself emotionally invested in the two main characters (Ana and Carmen). Ana's abortive crush on a visiting artist at her university made little sense to me in the context of her ongoing emotional feelings for husband despite his infidelity.

In the end, I think there was just too much going on in this novel for any of the myriad plot-lines to be satifactorily explored. I also found myself quite put off by the onmicient third-person narration that dropped previews of the future into the story as if to constantly re-assure the reader that everything will be OK. This was a decent read, but there are better books out there that explore mother-daughter relationships in a deeper, more meaningful way.

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