Friday, July 23, 2010

Book Review: Sisters, Strangers and Starting Over

Go to "Sisters, Strangers, and Starting Over (A Quinceañera Club Novel)" pageSisters, Strangers and Starting Over is the second book by Belinda Acosta, in the Quinceañera Club Novel series. Incidentally, the Quinceañera Club Novel series subtitle does not accurately portray the complexities on the pages between the covers. Sisters, Strangers and Starting Over is part family drama, part coming-of-age story, part culture-war and part mystery.

This second Quinceañera Club Novel centers on Beatriz Sanchez-Milligan, a happily married college administrator, and her family’s reaction to the sudden appearance of a mysterious relative. The relative is fourteen-year-old Celeste, daughter of Beatriz’s long-lost and newly deceased baby sister, Perla. Years earlier, while in graduate school, Beatriz turned troubled Perla away to save her burgeoning relationship. Beatriz is intent not to make the same mistake again; this raises ire from several family members including, Larry, her husband of twenty-five years.

Upon first meeting Celeste, Beatriz overwhelms the teen with ceaseless chatter and extravagant gifts. Unable to make a personal connection with the girl, Beatriz fears Celeste hates her. Luckily, Beatriz has friend Ana Ruiz, the focus of the first Quinceañera Club Novel, to give her advice and Celeste a quiet moment to process her new life.

As is to be expected in a Quinceañera Club Novel, a birthday party in honor of a girl’s fifteenth birthday occurs. For the uninitiated, a Quinceañera is a Hispanic/Latin coming-of-age ceremony held on a girl's fifteenth birthday, comparable to a Sweet Sixteen or Bat Mitzvah. Origins of the Quinceañera are often attributed to the ancient customs of the Aztecs, but the Incas, the Mayans and the Toltecs are all known to have had coming-of-age rituals for girls before Spain's exploration of the Western Hemisphere. The celebration, as we know it in the United States, became popular in the 1930s with a recent millennial resurgence.

Acosta’s novel should be noted for showcasing a longtime and happily married couple with strong family ties and well-behaved children. Humor is found in the ordinary, such as Beatriz and Larry’s game-changing fight spoken in sweet words over beer and bourbon in the family kitchen. If you are looking for a robust but not bloated summer read, I recommend Sisters, Strangers and Starting Over by Belinda Acosta.

Sisters, Strangers and Starting Over was released on July 20. In May, Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz, the first Quinceañera Club Novel, received the Mariposa Prize at the Annual International Latino Book Awards. If you need more incentive to read Acosta’s latest novel, she will do a live reading tonight (July 23, 2010) at BookPeople at 7 PM. Her special guest will be singer/songwriter Myrna Cabello.

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