Sisters, Strangers, and Starting Over
Grand Central, Jul 20 2010, $13.99
In San Antonio, fourteen year old Celeste Sanchez arrives at the home of her Aunt Beatriz Sanchez-Milligan as the older woman, her husband Larry and their teen children Carlos and Raul celebrate their silver wedding anniversary. Beatriz is in shock as she tells her Aunt Beatriz that her mom a Mexican labor organizer Perla died. Aunt Beatriz takes her niece into her home though Uncle Larry has doubts as wherever Perla went trouble followed.
Beatriz ignores Larry’s concerns of a chip off the old block and what that will do to their kids. She wants to adopt her niece and throw Celeste a quinceanera gala. Deep inside her gut, Beatriz feels guilt for failing to stay in touch with her sister and though caring for Perla’s daughter is the right thing it does not abate her remorse. When El Paso reporter Josie Mendoza arrives with a final “present” for Celeste from her late mom, he implies to Beatriz her sister was murdered. Twenty-fives years of a strong marriage begins to shatter as Larry wants the teen out with his memory of his sister-in-law tainting his feelings; while Beatriz wants her niece as part of the family partly because of her memory of her sister tainting her feelings..
The second quinceanera coming of age family drama (see Damas, Dramas and Ana Ruiz) is a terrific tale that centers on the characters; in this case mostly the niece and her aunt serving as a surrogate mom. The three Milligan males and Celeste’s uncles (and their families) enhance the poignant passionate plot, but this is the bonding of three females as an aunt and niece grieve their loss yet also cement their love. The ending will leave readers with wet eyes.