Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan has everything I love in a novel. It has gorgeous imagery and historical interest that hooked me into what happened in the world we live in along with a plot that kept me turning pages.
The vivid descriptions of both the ranch where Esperanza spent her early years and the California farm scenes in the 1920’s pulled me into the characters’ world.
I also learned that the U.S. immigration officials in the 20’s and 30’s often deported US citizens if they tried to strike for better conditions. The growers had power with the government officials. Perhaps because I have seen too much, I was not surprised about this. I was, however, surprised about the numbers of workers who faced deportation. Ryan says in an author’s note that ‘at least 450,000 Mexicans and Mexican Americans’ were sent to Mexico (often because they ‘looked’ Mexican) from 1929-1935 in an effort to improve the unemployment problems in the U.S. at the time. The job outlook did not improve.
My only complaint in the story itself was Esperanza’s young love interest Miguel. He felt a little too perfect. I could wish a few flaws on him to make him feel more human.
While reading the story of Esperanza, I also remembered something about myself as a reader. I need the lyrical language to get myself into a book, and then I will skim that beautiful language mercilessly in order to find out ‘what happens next’ like some sort of super plot junkie. That’s again why I often do better with the audio books if I want to soak up all of what the author has to say, but I do love it when the plot keeps me going enough to move quickly.
To sum it up once more: Esperanza Rising is an eye opener with beautiful language, lovable characters and a plot that pulled me through. If you liked Ryan’s previous books or others such as Moon Over Manifest by Vanderpool, you can pick up a copy of Esperanza Rising, too, and know it will keep your thoughts in its pages after you finish.