REVIEWED BY DAVID M. KINCHEN
One of the big stories this past summer — at least on the cable news networks — was the influx of young children unaccompanied by adults into the states bordering Mexico — refugees from the poverty and violence of central American nations like Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala. This isn’t a new story, only one that’s newly reported.
Amanda Eyre Ward includes this element in alternating chapters telling the story of Carla, a refugee girl from Honduras and Alice, a relatively affluent woman in Austin, Texas, in “The Same Sky” (Ballantine Books, 288 pages, $25.00).
Nobody should have to grow up as quickly as eleven-year-old Carla, left behind in Tegucigalpa, Honduras by her mother who paid a coyote to reach El Norte. She’s working at a restaurant in Austin, Texas and sends money to keep Carla, her six-year-old brother, Junior, and her grandmother sustain life in a city where the violence — often gang-driven — is escalating.
When Carla’s grandmother dies, Carla resolves to make the journey to the U.S. There’s nothing for her in Tegu. She manages to secure the services of a young man who claims to know the way north. Thus begins one of the most horrifying parts of the novel.
Meanwhile, Alice Conroe and her husband Jake own a barbecue restaurant in Austin, Texas. Hardworking and popular in their community, they have a loving marriage and thriving business, but Alice still feels that something is missing, lying just beyond reach. Alice met Jake in New York City just after recovering from breast cancer. They married and moved to Texas, where Jake continued the Conroe family barbecue tradition that began in his hometown of Lockhart, south of Austin.
To those unfamiliar with Texas — where I’ve lived going on seven years now — barbecue is a religion in the Lone Star State. It’s taken seriously by everybody and especially by Texas Monthly, widely circulated in the state. One of the humorous parts of “The Same Sky” involves an attractive woman food writer from New York in Austin to do a story on Conroe’s BBQ.
Alice and Jake have just been dealt a severe blow when the infant boy they’ve just adopted has been taken back by his birth mother. For years, Jake and Alice have been going through fertility treatments that have drained their savings. The loss of Mitchell puts strains on a marriage that has undergone way too much stress.
The lives of Carla and Alice intersect at the very end of this page-turning novel that fleshes out the stark headlines of the migration of children from a poverty stricken, violence-plagued region to a nation that doesn’t really want them. A wonderful, moving novel!
About the Author
Amanda Eyre Ward is the critically acclaimed author of five novels, including the bestseller “How to Be Lost”. Born in New York City in 1972, she majored in English and American Studies at Williams College, Williamstown, Mass. She has spent the last year visiting shelters in Texas and California, meeting immigrant children and hearing their stories. This novel is inspired by them. She and her family live in Austin, Texas. Her website: http://www.amandaward.com.