|How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents|
How the García Girls Lost Their Accents
Much like Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies, this book chronicles the lives of four sisters and their extended family. The Garcías – Dr. Carlos, wife Laura, daughters Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sophie, have fled from the Dominican Republic to New York after Dr. Carlos’s role in a coup attempt is discovered.
The book opens in the late 1980s when with Yolanda being welcomed back to the family compound in the DR. She’s relieved to be there, even though her lacking Spanish skills reveal that she’s been gone a long time. I wondered what exactly, led her back, and how she’d fare.
Only one of those questions is even partly answered. This book really is an explanation of how the sisters lost their accents. It’s told in reverse chronological order, with the reader slowly learning, through interconnected short stories, just how and why the family ended up in New York, and the growing pains they face trying to fit into a new culture.
There are plenty of growing pains. The girls are taken from a highly supervised Catholic environment to a much more permissive and secular one. Their parents try to maintain the same discipline that that did in the DR, but it’s impossible without the extended family to help with enforcement. The girls struggle with boys, bullies, the language, and more. All exert a tremendous toll of their mental and emotional health.
I do love a book with these themes – family, growing up, adjusting to a new culture. However, I had a problem connecting to this one. I think it was due to the reverse chronology. The structure does make it clear that the girls end up much more “Americanized” than they started – and much more than their parents would have liked. I don’t know if that would have been as clear in a traditionally sequential novel.