Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Same Sky, by Amanda Eyre Ward

Ballantine Books, ISBN 9780553390506, January 2015

Alice is a middle-aged woman in Austin, Texas, married to Jake Conroe, of the famous Conroe's BBQ. Their marriage is happy and fulfilled but for one glaring lack: they have no children. Surrogates failed them; adoption has failed them; at the book's opening, they've just had an especially heartbreaking failure. Baby Kellan was in their home for a day and a night when the birth mother changed her mind. Alice and Jake's different ways of coping with this latest loss is putting some strain on their relationship.

Carla is a young Honduran girl whose mother has gone to the US to earn money and send it back to her family, leaving Carla and her younger brother with her own mother. When her grandmother dies, Carla, not yet twelve herself, struggles to protect herself and her brother in their increasingly dangerous, gang-controlled village. In the end, she decides she has no alternative but to take her brother on the dangerous journey to join her mother in Texas.

They tell their stories in alternating sections, relating what are for each of them the mundane details and incredible challenges of their daily lives, as well as the complex and sometimes confusing relationships they are a part of. Alice and Carla each become very real people, and I felt connected to each of them and to the people they care about. Austin is a place I and many other Americans have been, but Ward's writing makes the village of Tegucigalpa as real and present, and we feel Carla's love for and connectedness to her home as well as the fear and grief of what it is becoming.

We also experience Alice's complicated relationships with Jake's family, and her own, in both cases compounded by her childlessness. Jake's parents very much wanted grandchildren; Alice's sister Jane has three children and feels a little overwhelmed.

These two stories come together in an ending that is both satisfying and thoroughly earned.

Highly recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.