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Las Madres    by Esmeralda Santiago order for
Las Madres
by Esmeralda Santiago
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2023 (2023)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

A very powerful but complicated story, Las Madres reflects the author's love of Puerto Rico, as seen through a nurturing female family. And several of Puerto Rico's natural disasters highlight how they not only survive but do so with great style.

Luz is a very special Madre. Damaged in a car accident, she has no memory in the present but still accesses the past when she has spells. Three women care for her, and she greatly affects their lives. A trip they take from their home in New York to Puerto Rico brings all this to a head.

Luz's condition and the fact that in her parents' home four languages were spoken makes for difficult reading at times. The story is told alternately between two dates, and since there are a lot of people in the story (as one of the Madres says, everyone in Puerto Rico seems to be a cousin), it is hard to keep track of who is who and what happened to whom. Thank goodness for the list of characters at the beginning!

I especially admired the author's great feeling for Puerto Rico and its people and their trials. Her portrayals of Luz as she seeks to understand the past and the present in the special way that only she can and of Marysol's empathy for the medically needy, whether young or old, disabled or not, are very moving. Definitely recommended.

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