In 30 short chapters that jump around in time from her troubled childhood in the Dominican Republic to her life as a single working mother in New York City, “Victoria” (a stand-in for the author) searches for self-acceptance, intimacy, and a man who will be hers alone.
In her adult life, Victoria holds a job, supports and tries to be a responsible role model for her little girl Variah, earns a master’s degree in creative writing and becomes a certified yoga teacher. She dates a variety of men because Variah has asked repeatedly for a “father.”
Victoria didn’t grow up with her natural parents; she was raised by an invalid who, the author writes, never recovered from a dark spell cast by a rival for her husband’s love. Having carried into adulthood the feeling of being lost, a cast-off, Victoria diligently pursues healthy ways to ease her pain. Time and again, she’s disappointed by men, yet for the sake of her and Variah’s security, she keeps looking for “the one.”
The simple narrative outlined above is almost impossible to discern from the author’s quixotic collection of hazy memories and mundane present-day details. There are glimpses of sincere emotional connection: the bond between Victoria and Variah, the sorrow Victoria suffers at the deaths of the simple country people who raised her, the steadfast support of Doña Emma, who first took Victoria under her wing when she was scared, alone, and pregnant. Yet, there’s no story arc, no compelling progression from one key emotional revelation to another to keep readers turning pages. Victoria’s inner journey from needy child to confident grown woman is obscured by stilted dialogue and a leaden account of everyday life. The text is also plagued with mechanical errors.
Somewhere in these pages is a roadmap to happiness after a difficult childhood and the struggles of being a single parent. As it stands, though, Diaz’s written account will only frustrate fellow travelers.
Also available as an ebook.