We are just over a month into 2022, which feels incredibly surreal. The past month has felt both incredibly slow and incredibly fast-paced. I did consider myself to be somewhat on vacation for the first couple weeks, so I think that definitely ended up affecting how much I accomplished both in relation to work and my hobbies during the first month. All this to say, I’m trying to be kind to myself when thinking back on the two books I finished during the first month. And to remind myself that in 2019 I only read one book in January but ended the year having read a total of 46 books.
Here are recaps of my first two books read in 2022:
Violeta by Isabel Allende was my first read of the year and follows the life of a Chilean woman throughout her 100-year life. Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House for providing me with a digital advanced copy.
The story is written in the form of a letter to someone she loves and is meant to serve as documentation of the version of her story she’s okay with being made public. This made me occasionally wonder how honest she was being, as well as how accurate her memory could possibly be. Sometimes she’d say it’d been a long time and didn’t remember the exact details, but she would often get specific in some of her descriptions.
This character also made me think of my Guatemalan grandmother, who died in her 90s and had a completely different life from this character. Still, it made me wonder how she would’ve written about her life at the end of it, who she would’ve been this honest with about the decisions she made throughout her life.
There were some details about the character that annoyed me but that made a lot of sense based on the time, place, and her social status. Violeta prides herself on being healthy simply because she is strong-willed and doesn’t pay much attention to any ailments that show up. She also starts off very unaware of the bubble she’s spent her life within.
She also does grow a lot over the course of the book, and I came to have a lot of love and compassion for her.
I gave this one 4/5 stars.
Content notes: sexual assault, colorism, mention of anti-Indigenous ideas, some ableism, ableist r slur, abusive relationship
To buy Violeta by Isabel Allende on Bookshop and show me some support, you can use my Bookshop link.
¡Yo! by Julia Alvarez caught my attention because it’s about a writer (Yolanda, or Yo for short) whose family and friends recognize themselves in specific characters of her book, and they’re very unhappy about it. I pictured them talking about the book specifically and correcting what was shared in Yo’s version of the story. Instead, it was from their perspective but about different moments in Yo’s life.
I hadn’t read anything by Julia Alvarez, including How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, which is about Yolanda and her sisters. I’m not sure, then, how much additional context I would’ve had in reading that book first, but I definitely understood everything going on without needing to read it.
I found the book really interesting and captivating, as each chapter took us to a different point in Yo’s life and was shared from a different voice. I enjoyed getting to read the perceptions of the various characters, who had different perspectives on Yo and had known her from differing contexts. And it was fun to see characters pop up again when a different character was narrating.
It did seem a little weird that some characters’ chapters were in third person while others were in first person. I also wish the timeline had been a little more clear, with dates at the beginning of each chapter or Yolanda’s age. The timeline isn’t linear, and she publishes several books throughout her career. I’m curious why this was the book that upset her family, or if it had more to do with the amount of publicity this one got than its content.
Overall, it wasn’t quite what I’d expected it to be, but I enjoyed the story and narrators.
Content Notes: colorism, some racist mindsets, an anti-Black racial slur
To buy ¡Yo! by Julia Alvarez on Bookshop and show me some support, you can use my Bookshop link.
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