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Review: Esperanza by Tommy Tutalo

★★★★ Esperanza by Tommy Tutalo

Understanding our identity, or at least tapping into our origins, is something that everyone can understand and relate to on some level. In Esperanza, an unforgettable novel by Tommy Tutalo, readers are welcomed into a strange and dangerous world – one of illegal immigrants, dangerous border crossings, FBI conspiracies, and a sinister criminal underworld that threatens to tear one young family apart.

Sarita is a young woman with a bizarre history, and a childhood that stretched her heart in different directions, imbuing her memories with fear, confusion, and loneliness. The three journals that she is given, however, will finally unlock the story of her family, and the tumultuous events that made her the woman she is today. Her mother and father, an illegal alien and an artist, respectively, have certain parts of their past that they both want to forget, particularly after Sarita is born, but some things are too vicious to outrun.

The recollections within the journals tell the tragic tale of Gabriela and Dante – of their doomed love story and the incredible lengths they go to free themselves from their own dark shackles, all in the hopes of finding and securing the beloved promise of family. As Sarita reads her mother’s words, she begins to understand more about the secrets of her own heart, the bravery of her parents, and the cruelty that the world can inflict on those who deserve it the least.

Not only is this novel heart-wrenchingly good, but it also sheds light on certain issues that have been at the forefront of political and moral discussions for years. A number of vital topics play an important part at the emotional core of Esperanza: illegal immigration, the devastating conditions from which some people flee, and the treatment they often receive in the places where they finally land. These issues may not be the central theme of the novel, but they are certainly an undercurrent, and give the book a substantial degree of gravitas.

All this said, in terms of the quality of the writing, there are a number of grammatical errors that need to be addressed. On the very first page, the word “scared” is misspelled as “sacred,” and similar small slip-ups continue throughout the book. Some of the prose is also a bit choppy, and Tutalo is not as clear as he could be in some of the novel’s phrasing. This narrative style eventually becomes normalized in the course of reading, but it is still never pleasant for readers to have to go back through a sentence or paragraph to work out precisely what the author meant.

However, at the core of this novel are thoroughly compelling and enriching characters, and a moving storyline. Sarita is a wonderful character to act as the impetus for the story, but the passionate Dante and the fiery Gabriela dominate the action and attention. They are philosophically wise, but sincerely flawed, and ultimately human. Their relationship, and the sacrifices that bleed out on the page, work to make this a mesmerizing story that readers won’t soon forget. Overall, Esperanza is a riveting story of family, loss, and closure that is at once universal and an important window into the specific struggles many people now face.

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Esperanza


STAR RATING

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