Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh
In Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s second novel she addresses the very real issues facing Mexican immigrants, both illegal and second generation. She discusses poverty, bullying, hard choices, second chances and the fine line we sometimes walk.
It took a while for me to become sympathetic to Letty, it wasn’t until I really got to know her later in the book that I realised there was more to this situation than met the eye.
The book opens with Letty scribbling her name at the bottom of a note and then racing off into the night, still drinking and leaving her two children at home alone. She justifies the situation to herself, and to us, but it certainly did not paint her in a sympathetic light.
Letty is chasing her mother who left on a bus to bring her husband home. Letty’s mother left at night, leaving the children in bed sleeping home alone though she knew Letty would not be far behind her. Instead of stepping up Letty made a split second decision to chase her mother and bring her home. Letty needs her, she can’t do this without her. Her mother has taken care of the children since they were born, Letty hasn’t had to take responsibility for them and she doesn’t feel equipped to do so now.
Letty was a teenaged single mother and we are allowed to believe that after the birth of her first child she left the baby with her mum to get back into her young life, partying hard and working harder; but it was far from that simple.
There are times that Letty makes choices most of us would balk at and it is difficult not to judge but she really is living in a completely different world to what we are used to. We soon see that Letty loves her children but has had her mother there to take the reins so has no idea how to take care of them. She was out working, sometimes three jobs, to support the family and send money back to Mexico for extended family.
I loved so much about this book and I want to keep this review spoiler free so I have got no idea what I want to say.
Alex and Luna are Letty’s children and they keenly feel the absence of their grandmother and her guiding influence in their lives to this point. Alex is a gifted and inquisitive teen stunted by his education at the local district public high school. His six year old sister is a little highly strung and requires constant attention.
Letty loves her children and would do anything for them, which is exactly how she ended up in the position she’s in. She loves with all she has and would sacrifice everything for those she loves which is something you can’t see at the beginning of the book.
We Never Asked For Wings is a journey of self discovery for Letty as she grows into the role of mother that’s been thrust upon her, some would say 15 years too late. It is also a slow uncovering of her past to allow us to completely understand her.
Diffenbaugh tackles tough issues with insight, empathy and honesty. Her story telling is compelling and the way she weaves the feathers and the birds into the story is both fascinating and heartwarming. This is far from a light read but it is definitely worth the read. An in-depth look into a life very different from what many of us would know. Sitting here reflecting now though I wonder just how much of this is relevant in cities across the world.