We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Published: August 18, 2015
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary / Adult Fiction
Edition: Kindle edition, 310 pages
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, now fifteen, and Luna, 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.
(Synopsis and image via Goodreads)
I was hooked from the first breathtaking pages of We Never Asked for Wings, caring about this exquisitely vulnerable family, hoping right along with them on every page that each heart-rending, impossible choice would lead them somewhere better together. ~ Lisa Genova, New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice
About two years ago, I reviewed Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s debut novel, The Language of Flowers. Beautifully written, Diffenbaugh tackled issues surrounding the foster care system. Her delicate balance between the world of flowers and their impact on people left me in awe of her writing.
When I noted NetGalley had Diffenbaugh’s second novel, We Never Asked for Wings, I didn’t hesitate to ask for a review copy. Here again Diffenbaugh brings into the reader’s realm a comparison of nature’s birds and their feathers and the relationship they have to human behaviors. And once again she tackles societal issues–immigration, teenage pregnancy, irresponsible parenting, and bullying.
An age-old story is at the core of We Never Asked for Wings. A single parent with a teenaged son and a several years younger daughter never learned responsibility, not for herself or for her children. Grandparents raised the children until they return to Mexico. The mother, Letty, receives little sympathy from me but at times does show a glimmer of hope for turning her life around.
Her 15-year old son, Alex, is the strength saving his life and his sister’s, something I see all too often among today’s youth. Alex is smart, kind, and the product of his grandparents’ upbringing. He has a bright future as long as he makes smart and thoughtful choices.
Some might believe the ending to this story is perhaps too neatly packaged. But I believe Diffenbaugh ended it the way she did to leave us with hope, the emotion that carries us day-to-day.
I highly recommend Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s We Never Asked for Wings. It is my hope that Diffenbaugh will continue to write novels that bring the raw realities of life to the forefront while encouraging us in hopefulness for the people living in harm’s way facing these raw realities.
Purchase We Never Asked for Wings here: