Picks and Pans Review: Yo!
Fans of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, the acclaimed 1991 novel by Julia Alvarez, will cheer the return of the four Garcia sisters, now all grown up and squabbling with each other (still) in this lively new work of fiction. The Dominican-born author, who wrote so movingly about the immigrant experience in Garcia Girls, turns her attention to Yolanda, or Yo, sister No. 3, who has written a novel about a family's move in the early '60s from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. The other Garcias are plenty mad about her exposing intimate details of their lives, and the most enjoyable parts of this story come as the family tries to deal with the stubborn, often wrong-headed, but ultimately endearing protagonist.
Clearly, Yo is a stand-in for Alvarez, and, to the author's credit, she's not always admirable. What's unfortunate, though, is the book's fractured structure—Alvarez uses multiple narrators (some American) to recount Yo's years in college, her struggles to become a writer and her three marriages. Because of the shifting perspectives, the reader doesn't get a clear enough idea of what makes Yo tick. And the American characters seem oddly flat. Alvarez writes best about the complexities of Dominican family life—territory she knows most intimately. (Algonquin, $18,95)
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