Friday, September 18, 2015

Vanessa Diffenbaugh Scores High on Her 2nd Book - We Never Asked for Wings

How do you follow up a book like The Language of Flowers (let's not forget that Flowers is in my top-12 all-time!)?  Is We Never Asked for Wings as good as Language?  No.  Is it a very good book that I really enjoyed a lot?  Absolutely.  Do you remember how good The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini was?  And then he came out with A Thousand Splendid Suns.  It wasn't TKR, but it was still darn good.  I'm really pleased that Vanessa wrote a top-notch follow-up.  Flowers is about the foster-care system.  This one addresses immigration. Here's the short of it:

For fourteen years, Letty Espinosa has worked three jobs around San Francisco to make ends meet while her mother raised her children—Alex, now fifteen, and Luna, six—in their tiny apartment on a forgotten spit of wetlands near the bay. But now Letty’s parents are returning to Mexico, and Letty must step up and become a mother for the first time in her life.

Navigating this new terrain is challenging for Letty, especially as Luna desperately misses her grandparents and Alex, who is falling in love with a classmate, is unwilling to give his mother a chance. Letty comes up with a plan to help the family escape the dangerous neighborhood and heartbreaking injustice that have marked their lives, but one wrong move could jeopardize everything she’s worked for and her family’s fragile hopes for the future.

This book reminded me of Gone Girl in one regard.  In GG, I liked the 1st half and really liked the 2nd half.  That happened to me here too.  Maybe I tend to sleep in the 1st half of books.  I don't think so, but you never know.  Regardless, I was sailing along and enjoying Wings, and then, BOOM, it took off.  It never slowed down again.  Kudos to Vanessa for building the book up to a take-off point and then carrying us along until the end.

Of course in Language we learned a lot about the meaning of flowers.  In Wings, we learn how to mix a drink and about the part the different ingredients play.  We also learn about a variety of birds.  Vanessa is always teaching us things.  I like that about her books.

There are a couple of other references that I internalized (because you all know that it's about me!).  At one point, a customer says to Letty:  "You've got yourself quite a teacher there."  Letty says:  "Self-appointed."  Why is that about me, you ask?  Because when I am recommending books on Sunday morning out in front of Recycle Books, people will look at my book business card and comment on my name - The Book Sage.  I always say:  "Self-determined."  Close enough.

There's also a paragraph in the book that describes 2 of the main characters walking through Stanford University.  My 1st reaction was to tell everybody to go take a walk around the campus.  It's spectacular.  It also reminded me of a book written by a local author, Betsy Franco (James' mother), called Naked.  It's all about the Rodin Museum that's located right on the university grounds.  (I recommend that book, too.)

That's all I've got.  We Never Asked for Wings is a very good book.  I think you'll like it.


  1. I loved this book too. I like the way Diffenbaugh gives a voice to a part of our society that is often ignored.

  2. That's 2 out of 2 where she does that.