Literary Orange is fast approaching. So I have started to read through some of the amazing authors that are going to be attending this year. This is going to be the first in a series of reviews I will write, all leading up to the big event in April 2014. So among the many books written by the authors going to be there, the first I am reviewing is called The Distance Between Us, by Reyna Grande. It is a memoir of her experiences and struggles as her family is torn apart and reconstituted in a life long journey from Mexico to the United States."El Otro Lado," the other side, is the way Reyna Grande and many people in Mexico view America, this faraway of land of opportunity to some, but shredder of families to many others. Before she is old enough to remember her father, he leaves his family to make money in this other land that to Reyna is just on the other side of the mountains in which she lives. All she has is a picture of him; and he becomes known to her as the man behind the glass. Later her mother leaves to join her father to support him in making money there, stranding their children with one set of grandparents and then another when things get slightly out of control.
Eventually, when Reyna’s mother returns she is not the same woman she was when she left. "El Otro Lado" has scarred her irreparably, not able to handle taking care of the kids who remind her too much of the man who she believes betrayed her. And when Reyna’s father finally arrives to look in on his children, he is shocked at the state of his children. Upon seeing this he invites his children to make the dangerous trek with him, back to "El Otro Lado," back to where he sees a land of opportunity. But the missing dad that was gone for so long cannot possibly live up to the imagined father that lived for so long behind that glass. This father has demons of his own that he needs to face.
Well written and insightful, Reyna Grande’s description of her life in The Distance Between Us, is a description of the distance that can exist in many families, real or imagined. She describes her life in heart breaking detail the lamentations that are created when families are torn apart by distance for dreams that may or may not be lived out. But despite this distance there are bonds that can never be broken. There are deep seeded connections that tie them to the past, bridge the gap that exists between loved ones, and lead the Grande’s into the tumultuous yet opportunistic future. And through all of this, Reyna’s father’s dream, a land of opportunity where advancement is possible beyond anyone’s wildest imaginations, is ultimately able to be lived out through his daughter Reyna.
Reyna Grande’s book The Distance Between Us is a beautiful story of the human spirit. There is tragedy, and yet there is real warmth to it all. It reminds me that even in the worst of situations, there is always room to dream big, and to see the beauty in others, despite all of their faults.