“Charming and intense at the same time, Alvarez writes candidly of epic concerns and everyday realities in this unfailingly lucid collection of autobiographical poems.” Booklist
“Brave and vivid . . . Seventy-five poems express wonder, anger, grief and joy in clear, accessible narratives.” The Miami Herald
“The poems are, like precious moments in life, nuggets to be savored and reflected upon.” The Dallas Morning News
Author of the popular novels How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies, Alvarez continues to explore themes of cultural difference and personal experience in her new collection of poems. The book, which marks her fourth collection of poetry, comprises 75 poems of 30 lines each; the formal constraint is an organizing principle for these sometimes meandering autobiographical poems. A good many poems explore her development and status as a writer, specifically as a Latina: "Even I, childless one, intend to write/ New Yorker fiction in the Cheever style / but all my stories tell where I came from." The midsection of the book, "The Woman I Kept to Myself," roams from nostalgic reflections on childhood birthday presents to meditations on eating disorders to speedily resolved family conflicts to personal, and worldwide, losses: "Why did it take so long? Mom and Dad's deaths/ a friend's cancer, a cousin's accident/ the Twin Towers, the war on innocents...." Seeing the first signs of spring sets the world to rights again: "Then suddenly, a daffodil, a patch/ of crocuses... and back into the intact Towers flew/ stick figures, like a film in reverse." Most poems here arrive at similar recastings of hard truths; often, however, one feels that both sides of the equation are too easily won, drawing close to clich and facile reconciliation: "I've woken to the world just as it is," she writes, "and that's enough-in fact, more than enough." (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Quotidian events, a storylike structure, and colloquial diction make Alvarez's latest book seem more like a memoir (albeit one written with attention to the sounds of language, especially alliteration) than a book of poetry. The author of four novels (including In the Time of the Butterflies, a National Book Award finalist), Alvarez at her best writes in a style reminiscent of Billy Collins. There are deceptively simple conversational poems, like "Saman" and several others here, which resonate in a bright mesh of metaphors. Yet most of the work in this collection does not attain that level. Some poems, like "Deathdays" and "All-American Girl," have a greeting-card tone; others go on too long, as if Alvarez were afraid that readers might not have understood the actual ending, which usually occurs in the penultimate stanza. Too many poems (e.g., "Why I Write") rely on clich s, few of which are spun out into gold. Recommended for larger public libraries only.-Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., MD Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-This tightly structured collection of 75 poems is divided into three sections, and each poem has three stanzas, exactly. Alvarez's voice, however, is as free and strong as the free verse she composes. The poet, who is from the Dominican Republic, writes about being raised with her sisters in New York. The subjects are personal-love, marriage, rejection, divorce, death, religion-but also universal. She says in "Why I Write," "Unless I write things down I never know what I think, no less feel." This book will appeal to readers not only for the eloquence with which Alvarez describes her feelings and discoveries, but also for the humor. In "Abbot Academy" she notes that as a schoolgirl she found that ladies "-learned to be blondies even if they were dark-haired, olive-skinned, spic-chicks like me." Readers who enjoyed How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (1992) or In the Time of the Butterflies (1995, both Plume) will love her poetry. Teens approaching adulthood will appreciate the poet who turned to "paper solitude" and through many drafts discovered "the woman I kept to myself."-Sheila Janega, Fairfax County Public Library, Great Falls, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.