My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Book Review: Daughters of The Air by Anca L. Szilagyi


Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Tatiana "Pluta" Spektor was a mostly happy, if awkward, young girl—until her sociologist father was disappeared during Argentina’s Dirty War. Sent a world away by her grieving mother to attend boarding school outside New York City, Pluta wrestles alone with the unresolved tragedy and at last runs away: to the streets of Brooklyn in 1980, where she figuratively—and literally—spreads her wings. Told with haunting fabulist imagery by debut novelist Anca L. Szilágyi, this searing tale of love, loss, estrangement, and coming of age is an unflinching exploration of the personal devastation wrought by political repression. 

This book was recommended to me by a friend of mine who knows the author.  I really had no clue as to what this book was about, but I decided to buy a copy and dive in.  Wow!  I was pleasantly surprised by how amazing and powerful this book is.  With a difficult subject matter (the political unrest in Argentina in the 1970's), this is a tale of loss, but also of redemption.  It reminded me of Isabel Allende's The House of The Spirits.  It is both brutal, and beautiful.

What I Liked:
The book is set in several different places and time periods:  Argentina and Brazil in 1978, and New York City and Rome in 1980.  Each place comes alive with vivid descriptions.  

In Buenos Aires, the reader gets a glimpse of a city in the throes of a repressive regime.  People are on edge as some citizens who are associated with protests disappear.  When people try to search for their loved ones, they are met with indifference, and, if they persist, intimidation.  The author uses small details such as Pluta falling into mud and ruining her dress as a portent of bad things to come.

New York seemed particularly gritty and menacing in the book.  In the 1970's and 1980's, New York was rife with crime.  Considering the oppressive and dangerous country where they had only recently lived, I was more fearful for Pluta in the Big Apple!  And with good reason.

Pluta is a young teen who feels adrift at a boarding school in Connecticut.  Originally from Argentina, she doesn't understand her father's sudden disappearance, or her mother's abandonment.  Although she makes many terrible mistakes, I really liked Pluta's tenacity, and spirit.  She refuses to be a victim.  But she also doesn't let others help her when she clearly needs it.  But I think, given her young age, that is understandable.  

Isabel is Pluta's mother, and will not earn any awards for parenting.  She is grieving the loss of her husband, but refuses to acknowledge to her daughter that he is probably dead.  This leaves her Pluta feeling confused and abandoned.  While I wanted to hate Isabel for her treatment of Pluta, I also could see how confused and abandoned she, herself, felt.  Isabel had been brought up to believe that she would be taken care of by a husband.  When Daniel is abruptly out of the picture, she feels betrayed, even if it isn't his fault.  She is also a daughter of the air, adrift in her newfound freedom.

The story jumps between what happened when Daniel disappears in 1978, to two years later.  Most of what happens is seen through the eyes of Pluta as she tries to make sense of the unthinkable.  Her descent into Hell is frightening.  Despite the protagonist being in her early teens, THIS IS NOT A YA BOOK!  The violence that Pluta deals with as a runaway in New York is brutal, as is her methods of survival.

The book dips a toe into magical realism with the theme of wings (flying, freedom, metamorphosis).  At first I had a "What the hell?" reaction to this.  But, I later found it to be a powerful allegory to moving from the dependence of childhood to the self-reliance of adulthood.  There are also references to spirits that may, or may not, be around to guide Pluta.  I found these elements to be wonderful (and a bit trippy!)

This was a challenging book due to its gritty realism coupled with its hints at the magical.  But it was ultimately a very rewarding reading experience.

Trigger Warning for sexual violence!


Release Date:  December 5th, 2017

Publisher:  Lanternfish Press

Author:  Anca L. Szilagyi

Genre:  Historical Fiction/Magical Realism

Page Length:  246 Pages

Source:  Bought

Format:  Paperback Book 

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2019 Reading Challenge

2019 Reading Challenge
MsArdychan has read 10 books toward her goal of 120 books.


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