Their Dogs Came with Them by Helena Maria Viramontes
In this profoundly heart wrenching story, we live and breathe the struggles through the lives of the many characters that are somehow connected at one point in time. Viramontes beautifully tells a story of a people defined by a government, defined by a race, and their struggle to just survive. After reading this very hard to read, hard to put down novel, I am left with questions, left with an honest sadness for a people I don’t even know. Would I read this book again… in a heart beat.
From the tale of the old woman “Chavela” who is being forced from her home to make way for new freeways, I am given a chance to walk in her old, well lived shoes who have nothing left to give.
Then we come to Antonia or “Turtle” as she is known by her friends. To watch this young confusing soul struggle with her own identity and closeness to her brother, to walk in her shoes that seem to walk everywhere in search of substance, of a better way of life without being judged or misplaced. Her story is definitely the cruelest form of life.
I ached as I looked through the eyes of Ermila, sent to live with her grandparents; people she never knew and weren’t very accepting of her presence. Her language, only Spanish, now had to be something different, other than her own in the eyes of the Education system. Growing up, she was becoming someone she never even knew; her mother.
When I look through the eyes of Ben I am given insight to an alluring yet disturbing mind. This wounded soul with the desire to be, to not have to fight the demons in his head. Combined with Tranquiina, his friend who lovingly sacrifices care and prayer for him while she lives with the pain of her past and where she came from. Their stories were built on tragedy and hope.
Not the happiest of story telling but definitely raw in its honest form. Life is not a bouquet of roses, it is also the thorns and short-lived life, once they have been cut from their life source. A book well worth my time and understanding, I do recommend this book to others who want to walk in other’s footsteps for a reality check.