Thursday, January 9, 2014

When Rosa Came Home - Karen Wyld

I loved this book. Let me just say that right upfront.

Little Angelita Ambrosio knows it's going to be a special day as soon as she wakes up and looks out her bedroom window: "Breathing in, I was greeted by a heady mix of lavender, sandalwood, rose attar, buttery-popcorn and sawdust and, despite the ocean being many miles away, salted air." And then Rosa -- the sister Angelita never knew she had -- is brought home.

Rosa had been estranged from her family for many years, and she arrives now in a coma-like state. So it's left for her many visitors to fill in the details of her extraordinary life. Circus performers, a sea captain, a sort of voodoo doctor, a snake, a horse, and twin nurses who crochet magic blankets all tell their tales, after their own fashion, and all within Angelita's earshot. Eventually, we learn why Angelita's eldest sister is so sullen, and why Angelita never knew Rosa existed until the day she came home.

This is very much a work of magic realism. Wyld deftly weaves magic into the world of her charming story and makes it seem as natural as the grass or sky. Think of Marquez without the heavy symbolism, or Like Water for Chocolate without the heavy breathing. I guessed the family secret long before Angelita cottons on to it, but never mind that. In this book, the journey to the little girl's discovery is half the fun.