Letty is a single mother of two children – a teenage son named Alex and a six-year-old daughter named Luna.
At the start of We Never Asked for Wings, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, Letty lives with her parents. Her mother has assumed the parenting role for the children, leaving Letty feeling highly insecure about her own parenting abilities. Letty is thrown into a crisis early in the narrative by her parents moving back to their home village in Mexico. She wakes one morning to find them gone, and her response is to jump in her car and drive after them, leaving her children unattended at home.
By this point, I was hooked on the story and could hardly put the book aside until I had finished it the following day.
I could relate to the insecurities that Letty experienced as a parent. Her task was made more difficult by the fact that both fathers of her children were not even aware of the fact that they were dads. Letty had to work to support both herself and the children, as well as send money to her parents in Mexico.
Her son was a studious type, but Letty could see that he would never be able to get the education that he needed to achieve his potential if they continued to live in the same area where she had lived all her life, with its sub-standard schooling system. Letty made a decision to turn their lives around and managed to move to a nearby area with an excellent school. Alex was accepted straight into an advanced science class which ran a project with a scholarship attached and was in with a chance of winning the top prize.
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During all of this, Alex gets to meet his father for the first time and falls in love with the daughter of an illegal immigrant. The romance gets tender treatment from the author, with the teenage feelings of first love being explored in some detail. Letty becomes highly anxious with this recreation of her own teenage years, with Alex and his girlfriend mirroring her teenage relationship with Alex’s father. Letty is fearful that the young couple will propel into early parenthood, thus dashing Alex’s chance to gain an education.
The blurb on the book questions how far you would go for your child and Letty’s answer to this question becomes obvious when Alex lands in strife with the law. Letty recognises the mistakes that she has made and the negative impact that they have had on her own life and that of her children. She confronts her demons and goes on to become the parent she never imagined that she could be.
I really enjoyed this story, and I thought that the characters were well developed and the plot realistic. The novel gave some insight into the topics of bird migration which was a favourite interest of Letty’s father, and the creation of fancy cocktails which Letty trained herself to do in order to increase her tips while working in a bar. A secondary theme was the illegal immigration which exists between Mexico and the United States, and the tenuous situation of illegal immigrants. They are likely to be deported if they come to the attention of authorities and are forced to live their lives as second-class citizens. Conversely, Mexican citizens are often willing to risk all manner of difficulties to live in America. Overall, the novel allows the reader to explore human relationships – the most fascinating subject of all.
We Never Asked for Wings, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, published by PanMcMillan – click here to purchase from Dymocks