By Ekta R. Garg
January 21, 2015
Rated: Bordering on Bypass it
A woman in the United States deals with the consequences of a life-changing illness. A young girl in Honduras tries to lead her family despite the worst economic conditions. The two will meet in unexpected circumstances that will once again change both of them. Amanda Eyre Ward gives readers this plot in the well-intentioned but deeply lopsided novel The Same Sky.
Alice and her husband, Jake, run a celebrated barbecue restaurant in Austin. The restaurant has begun to receive national attention and Alice couldn’t feel happier for Jake, the son of an experienced barbecue restaurateur. After her breast cancer diagnosis, a double mastectomy, and premature menopause, Alice feels like she’s finally getting a chance to partake in something productive.
Not that all is perfect in Austin. Alice’s deep longing for children provides the couple with a stumbling block. A failed adoption only makes things worse; the birth mother reneges on the adoption just days after Alice and Jake bring the baby home. Since losing the child, Alice can’t think of anything else.
In Honduras Carla does all she can to display bravado. Her mother left the family when Carla was only six years old, making the dangerous, exhausting trip to enter the U.S. illegally, so she can earn money and raise the family’s economic status. Since her mother left, Carla has run the house. She takes care of her twin brothers and their grandmother.
Carla’s mother eventually saves enough money to send for one brother. Carla keeps hoping her mother will send for her and her other brother, Junior. When Carla’s mother left, town life hadn’t become so unbearable. As economic hardships strike the town, however, money becomes even more scarce. At one point Carla begins digging through dumpsters for any items to salvage and sell.
When her grandmother dies, Carla knows she can’t stay in Honduras any longer. Junior has begun engaging in dangerous activity. If she wants to keep both of them safe, Carla will have to find a way herself to cross the border. Despite stories of failed border crossings, Carla knows she will not stop trying until she reaches her mother.
Author Amanda Eyre Ward creates two diametrically opposed characters, albeit unintentionally. Carla’s sweet voice underscores the gravity of her situation. In the end notes of the book Ward shares the fact that she spoke to girls in situations similar to Carla’s, and the research certainly shines. Carla’s three-dimensional will draw readers in, shock them, and make their hearts ache.
By sharp contrast Alice doesn’t kindle any feelings of sympathy in readers; in fact, if nothing else, by the end of the book readers may sigh in relief in the fact that Alice’s side of the story has ended. No one can dispute the fact that Alice has suffered hardships. Her reactions to those hardships seem too pat, almost trope-like. Alice’s laser focus on the child issue guarantees that she doesn’t change throughout the entire book; readers hoping for a protagonist who travels a character arc will feel disappointed by Alice.
Because Ward chooses to tell the entire story in first person, alternating chapters between Carla and Alice, readers may find it difficult to sit through the Alice portions. Had she simply chosen to tell Carla’s story Ward would have given readers a book that drew them in and refused to let go. Unfortunately The Same Sky doesn’t do that.
If readers want to experience firsthand the journey of an illegal immigrant I recommend readers Borrow The Same Sky. Otherwise Bypass it.