Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Review: We Never Asked For Wings

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Published: August 18, 2015

From the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Language of Flowers comes her much-anticipated new novel about young love, hard choices, and hope against all odds.
For fourteen years, Letty Espinosa has worked three jobs around San Francisco to make ends meet while her mother raised her children—Alex, fifteen, and Luna, just six—in their tiny apartment on a forgotten spit of wetlands near the bay. But now Letty’s parents are returning to Mexico, and Letty must step up and become a mother for the first time in her life.
Navigating this new terrain is challenging for Letty, especially as Luna desperately misses her grandparents and Alex, who is falling in love with a classmate, is unwilling to give his mother a chance. Letty comes up with a plan to help the family escape the dangerous neighborhood and heartbreaking injustice that have marked their lives, but one wrong move could jeopardize everything she’s worked for and her family’s fragile hopes for the future.
Vanessa Diffenbaugh blends gorgeous prose with compelling themes of motherhood, undocumented immigration, and the American Dream in a powerful and prescient story about family.

My review:

Letty is a difficult character to like especially in the beginning. She was a teen mom, a young woman with a promising future until she became pregnant. After the birth of her son Alex, Letty was in a fog. Her college dreams were over and she became this party girl who drank to forget her troubles while her mom, Maria Elena, took care of Alex. Then Luna is born and Maria Elena takes care of her too since Letty is now working hard to provide for the family. At the start of the novel, Letty leaves Alex and Luna to fend for themselves while she goes after her mother hoping to bring them back. How can she take care of her children? She can barely take care of herself! Unfortunately her plan fails and Letty returns to the unwanted responsibility of being a full time mom. It was hard to see Letty make such big mistakes with her kids. I wanted to shake her. A flashback shows an incident that helped to reinforce Letty's idea that she wasn't capable of being a good mom and her own mother was culpable as an enabler but I was so frustrated with Letty. Thankfully she does grow up and become more responsible as the book goes on. I did feel bad for her and admired the fact that she wanted her kids to have a better life and how hard she works to give them that opportunity. 

The novel is also told through the point of view of Letty's son. Alex has the burden of being man of the house now that his grandfather and grandmother have gone and his mom isn't exactly a model parent. He does his best to care for Luna while his mom is in Mexico and it is so sad. He is a smart kid and I think there are echoes of who Letty used to be in him. Alex isn't happy with Letty when she returns from Mexico which is very understandable. He and Luna were pretty traumatized by their time alone. He is also upset that Letty has never told him about his father though he secretly found out his dad's name is Wes. 

While I had some issues with Letty, I did like her in the end. Letty and Alex both make mistakes and they both grow though I think Letty still has a long way to go. It is clear that she does love her kids even if she was a reluctant mother. Her drive to get Alex into a better school and to move them to Mission Heights is admirable. I liked Alex and his love for science which is so like his dad. I also liked how he wanted to protect his girlfriend Yesenia who is in a difficult situation herself. Like Letty, he doesn't always make the best choices but at heart Alex is a good kid. 

Overall I liked this book and cared about the characters. The writing style flowed well with just the right amount of descriptive detail. I listened to the audio book and I thought the narration was well done although Luna's voice in Letty's chapters could be a little whiny and annoying. I particularly liked the narrator for Alex. We discussed this book in my afternoon book group and the members mostly liked it though they did have issues with Letty's parenting skills! I am glad I read this book and plan to read The Language of Flowers too. 


  1. I don't know if I could handle Letty's lack of parenting skills enough to actually finish the book, but I'm glad you enjoyed the book for the most part. I've heard great things about The Language of Flowers and I still have to read it.

  2. Great review, Christina! This is a new-to-me book and seems perfect for a book club. I'm glad you and your afternoon book group enjoyed it overall.


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