Thursday 27 October 2016

Fiction: The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward

Blackfriars, €10.99

Published 08/08/2016 | 02:30

The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward
The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward

There is hardly a more apposite time for this book to be published than during a presidential race, where one candidate's focus is on keeping migrants from entering El Norte.

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Eleven-year-old Carla and her little brother, Junior, live in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in a makeshift hut, surviving on scraps from the local dump. Each month, their mother, who fled to Austin, Texas, wires a few dollars. Their grandmother has died, leaving Carla to deal with thieves and glue-sniffers. This gentle soul dreams only of marrying her friend Humberto and reuniting with her mother and brother's twin. Their destitution is so graphic, it is hard to believe it exists just across the Atlantic.

Also in Austin, Texas, is Conroe's BBQ, where the history and cultural nuances of slow-smoked brisket sustain 40-year-old Alice and her husband, Jake. As a young woman in New York, Alice discovered she had the BRCA1 gene and underwent a double mastectomy to avoid breast cancer. The chemotherapy caused infertility and the couple have been on a 10-year mission to adopt. The tension after the last effort fails has left them on edge - and the reader too.

It is far more than the Rio Grande that separates Carla and Alice. Yet each has a strength and hope that binds their type. Carla's blind faith in God brings her and Junior on a dangerous journey clinging to The Beast, the freight train through Guatemala. In Mexico, the only way across the border, at great expense, is with a coyote (human smuggler) to escape La Migra (US immigration).

Two very different narratives intersect, their voices clearly distinct in disappointment and hope. The Same Sky is richly rendered and researched, culminating in a bittersweet moment of new beginnings. Highly recommended.

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