Book Review: Esperanza Rising

Oya, everybody! Yet another week has gone by. And for me, at least, not much has changed besides the weather. Except for, you know, stress. Stress got worse.

But that’s fine.

Today’s post is another book review (duh) on one of the few non-mystery historical fiction novels that I actually enjoy. Here’s the back cover synopsis:

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Esperanza believed her life would be wonderful forever. She would always live on her familys ranch in Mexico. She would always have fancy dresses and a beautiful home filled with servants. Papa and Abuelita would always be with her.

But a sudden tragedy shatters her world and forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California, where they settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles brought on by the Great Depression, and lack of acceptance she now faces. When Mama gets sick, and a strike for better working conditions threatens to uproot their new life, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances — because Mama’s life and her own depend on it.

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First of all, I love the writing style. It’s very easy to be immersed in the story. There’s a ton of emotion and drama without becoming boring or overbearing. It’s a very soft story without the adrenaline-rush action I usually want when reading, but still extremely enjoyable.

So that’s the overall vibe of Esperanza Rising. On to my favorite bit. Characters.

Esperanza Ortega, the main character, is a little bit annoying. Which, surprisingly, is a good thing in this sort of story. She’s a somewhat spoiled thirteen-year-old in the beginning, used to fine things and being waited on hand and foot by the tons of servants that work at her dad’s ranch. She’s very attached to her mom and her Abuelita (who crochets and is awesome), and she has a special relationship with her dad.

Miguel is her best friend. His mom is Esperanza’s mom’s personal maid. There’s a lot of tension between the two teenagers for most of the book, because Esperanza sort of likes to lord her status over him. He’s a very nice boy, and there’s not much more I can say about him without spoiling parts of the story. But he’s great.

The story follows them and their families as they move around the different farm camps in the southwest, trying to survive during the Great Depression and keep their jobs amidst strikes and sicknesses and dust storms. It’s an interesting perspective on that time period that I haven’t seen in a lot of other books. The natural bits of Mexican culture woven through every scene are epic, and connect you to the characters and their emotions fantastically.

One thing that I like about the book that is kind of random, is that instead of chapter titles or numbers, the chapters begin with the crop that is either growing in whatever season the characters are in, like grapes or potatoes, or has an important role in the chapter, like papayas. It’s just a sweet little detail, and since the story follows several years’ time, it helps you when you’re reading to think, ‘Oh, grapes. It has been another year and Esperanza is now fifteen’.

If any of you know any Spanish, you probably know this already, but Esperanza means hope. Hope is the central theme of this story, and I think it’s executed fantastically. The symbolism of Abuelita’s blanket (hills and valleys in a crochet pattern), the way seasons are used, roses, even a silly thing like putting squashed avocados on someone’s hands, they all serve to weave the theme through the plot. It makes you think, and it makes you feel.

The book is actually inspired by the author’s grandmother, the real life Esperanza, and tells the story of her experience with the farm camps in California in 1934 and afterwards. The real Esperanza must have been an awesome storyteller for her granddaughter to write such a real, natural, unbelievably believable novel from her adventures.

The only complaint I can think of is that at times, the story seems to move a bit sluggishly, elaborating on a certain topic or thought process maybe longer than needed. But again, I don’t usually enjoy books that aren’t fast-paced and action packed, so it might just be my personal tastes.

Overall, absolutely fantastic novel. I’d suggest you check it out. I’ve seen it at most libraries I’ve been to, and it’s got an award so it shouldn’t be too hard to find.

Annnnnd . . . . yeah that’s all I got for you guys today. What kind of books do you think I should review next time? Do you enjoy reading these reviews? What song should I learn on the guitar?

(I’m very bored)

See you next week!

-Ace

One thought on “Book Review: Esperanza Rising

  1. That book sounds like one I would love. I’m putting it on my list! (Tragically, the libraries are closed right now, but when they open back up I’m definitely ordering it.)

    I really love these reviews and I vote you do a fantasy book next!

    Liked by 1 person

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