I am a little over halfway through the book. As a mother (entirely imperfect), a daughter and a grandmother… I find myself very frustrated with the characters. Maybe because they parallel very well with my life. The flaws are different, but have similar effects on the people around.
I do empathize with the characters, but I also find myself mentally yelling at them. I think this is because it’s much easier to see what’s wrong in a situation you are not in yourself. Objectivity.
Loved your comment that “it’s much easier to see what’s wrong in a situation you are not in yourself.” So true.
**spoilers here** I read this book a couple of months ago, and something that stuck with me after reading was each character’s capacity for selfishness or cruelty but also grace. Amadeo was so awful in some moments—heartless to a sister’s past experiences with abuse, selfish throughout much of the book. But by the end, he was redeemed for me. That horrific moment when he wrecks while driving drunk and realizes suddenly that he did not secure the baby’s carseat was agony to me. That turmoil he feels in the seconds before knowing the baby’s fate and the relief when he… Read more »
I love the interiority of these characters. I taught high school for 17 years, where I met many people like Angel and Amadeo. Here was the internal dialog behind the choices I often saw students make. Amadeo’s roller coaster self esteem and childish selfishness were so frustrating, but Quade does an excellent job of depicting these traits with realism and compassion. She also shows that there are varying degrees of dysfunction in troubled families. While Angel has a man-child father and a mother who fails to protect her, she also has Yolanda, Tive, and Brianna. Angel is so much better… Read more »
Not to mention the baby’s daddy, who ironically at 14 seems much more mature than Amadeo.
I thought the same thing – maturity had nothing to do with age, as Amadeo is a middle aged man who is MUCH less mature than 14 year old Ryan.
What I liked was the perseverance that the characters showed. They stumbled but kept trying.
I had a hard time with the father. His sense of entitlement to be recognized for doing the bare minimum was really frustrating to me. It was much easier to empathize with Angel who was trying so hard to do something with herself for the sake of a better life. I had an easier time writing off her bad decisions because of her youth, and because of the amount of stress she was under. The grandmother was also easy to empathize with. I mean, she had a brain tumor, of course she wasn’t always making great decisions. And I can’t… Read more »
Why is it that you allowed all the other characters to make multiple mistakes and still feel empathy for them and this one character made this one mistake and you could no longer feel empathy and understanding? I am really curious.
I am wondering if it was because Brianna supposedly had it all together, therefore should have known better? I felt sorry for her too, because she was such an innocent.
I made myself finish the book. The childish sounding drama in the head of Amadeo in particular was so repulsive.
Angel was the reason I finished it.
I had a hard time forgiving Brianna too. I wish we would have heard from her one more time so she could have shown some remorse. However, I think we need to keep in mind that she too is young and inexperienced in many ways. I’d imagine eventually she’d realize that she failed to show those girls true empathy and compassion when it mattered the most and that it will haunt her.
I guess I must have felt empathy because I w so often angry and frustrated at their repeated selfish mistakes. They were redeemed but at great cost!
Oddly I found myself mostly impatient with Yolanda. She was the most responsible of the characters yet she didn’t let her family know she was dying. I imagine it was denial. I did love how the author described her last moments. Great book!
I felt empathy for these characters despite there sometimes wretched choices. I remember the passage when Brianna was explaining to A model the concept of “at risk”, the fact that it includes poverty, minority status, family substance abuse, divorce or single parent status, appeal abuse. Every one of the characters had one or more of these ” at risk” factors. For this reason, I found myself rooting for them. I think out of all of them, Yolanda was the least flawed character, while Amadeo was the most flawed. Yolanda was a very, very strong women, and her job was relatively… Read more »
I found myself holding Yolanda responsible for how Amadeo turned out, for coddling him too much. It’s not fair because his father was part of the equation too.
The first third of the book was hard for me because Amadeo is just so aggravating to me, but when he prays for Angel’s stretch marks to go away how can you not like him a little bit? Those moments were key in reminding me that we all need grace and all of us have our moments
I agree. Just when I couldn’t take his selfishness anymore, he’d do something kind or thoughtful (in his own way) and I think that is what made him ultimately a sympathetic character.
All the characters would benefit from speaking what is truly in their hearts. They hold all their most painful feelings close, but if they spoke them to one another, they could begin to heal from old and new wounds. Everyone seems to be barely holding it together and as the title suggests, they all self crucify.
Maureen, your insight is very impressive. I had not considered the possibility that each character played a part in the pageant. I had not seen the self wounds of each character, including Briana, until I read your comment. Sometimes the heart speaks to us in multiple tones with no message coming through the most clear. I think Angela had this confused heart throughout the novel, making her choices very difficult.
Agreed. I also had not extended the symbolism of the pageant to all the characters. Indeed, they all “self crucify”, each in their own way.
I empathized from the standpoint that all characters in my opinion, suffered from self hatred that manifested itself differently in each character with their poor decisions. The book wrapped up a little too neatly for me with all starting to show a small bit of self acceptance at the end.
I loved the character Yolanda, but I think she was a barrier to her family’s growth. The way she enabled her kids, essentially keeping Amedeo from growing up. She was the glue for her family but it was a stagnant glue that kept them from moving up.
I empathize with Angel who has, through impetuous teenage behavior, found herself in the situation of unplanned pregnancy. She looks to her mother for love and compassion, but it is not given. As a result, she turns to her father who is even more juvenile and self centered, forcing her to accept the role of responsible adult, possibly exactly what she needs prior to the birth of this child. All in all, she is still just a teenager who has made mistakes and poor choices and lacks the love, guidance, and obviously, supervision that should be due any person of… Read more »
Yes, I felt empathy for all of these characters, even Lizette. Their struggles to make a life for themselves against overwhelming odds is very sad. Yes, they all make some bad choices, but how about the people that peddled the window repair scam? Shouldn’t they also pay a price? I hate when people pray on the least fortunate in our society.
Angel is my hero. I really like how resilient she is and that she keeps on going even when things are tough. As a teenage Mom, her focus was her baby. Although I was pretty mad when she left Connor to go see Lisette, the author shows that life has a way of reminding us of what’s important and I am glad that the family found their way back and that everybody got their life together. My heart broke when Amadeo got in the last accident before he finally realized that he was a mess. I think Yolanda’s death, as… Read more »
Yolanda’s husband is a side note. Dying in a car accident while intoxicated. Drinking and being abusive to the children and then Yolanda finds him shooting up in the living room and kicks him out. I appreciated her regret that she did not acknowledge his confession of being gay by supporting him with the understanding that it’s ok to be gay you can still be a loving father. I wonder if that is why the writer allowed Yolanda to support Amadeo with his drinking and failed business ventures. I enjoyed reading about the Hispanic community struggle with economics, cultural and… Read more »
Spoilers: This book was deep in the way of intimate relationship exploration. I could not stand Lizette, but Angel’s response to her turned me around in my perception of her. The author’s writing of their relationship and sexual details, was hard for me to digest but enlightening to me, and has stayed with me. The same for Yolanda, and Anthony’s closet homosexuality. Not to mention Yolanda’s thought processing of her relationship with Cal and the “goblin” at the bar. And not to forget Val and Mike. There does seem to be a profound exploration of misogyny and male on female… Read more »
Coming from the same background, gives you hope that they will find their own way to great experience wonderful outcomes.
while I empathized with all the characters, I grew tired of them blaming others for the consequences of their poor decisions.
While each character is deeply flawed, each one is complicated enough that I was still interested in following their journey. I did feel least patient with Amedeo, and most sympathetic toward Angel. Brianna’s rigidity made her seem a flat and uninteresting character. While Yolanda was unforgivably enabling Amedeo, she was complex enough that her death scene was one of the richest moments of the novel.
I agree, the death scene was beautifully written. This author gets high marks for this. I would love to be in her creative writing class if I were once again a college student.
I think we could find a little of ourselves in each character of the book. The author touched on aspects and thoughts of the characters that I could empathize and see myself through their experiences. Not all experiences but when Amedeo tried to fix the window and kept messing up, I could feel his frustration and could imagine the many times I have messed up something important.
It was especially interesting to read the inner dialogue of Angel, how she wants to reach out and mend her relationships but her inner “demons” force her to push everyone away.
I did feel empathy for them. These were children who had children before they were themselves grown up. This has lasting effects that influenced their whole lives. Most decisions that you make in your teens not this influential on the rest of your life. They weren’t able to “make a mistake” and move on without consequence. They had to grow up too quickly and this resulted in not growing at all, at least for some of them. I wanted things to be better especially for Angel who was trying so hard to learn to be s good mom. Momming is… Read more »
In the beginning it was hard to have any empathy as they were so focused on themselves, all except the Mother/Grandmother who gave too much of herself and nothing to herself. Towards the end I was hoping they would all come around, meet their problems head on and not be so negative. Finally, in the end, it came around, all due to a terrible accident. It is a shame this is what took to wake them up. They still had problems to work out but at least there seemed to be a future ahead.
I felt sad that the characters continued to want love and acceptance yet they used anger at the person that they wanted love from most. I rooted for all of them because I could also see their sadness and disillusion in the everyday interactions each character had with others. I was upset that Yolanda could not tell her family and friends what she was going through. Maybe all the chaos that was happening already in the family was so overwhelming that she couldn’t add anymore problems to it.
All of these characters yearned for forgiveness, love and acceptance, but from outside themselves. The journey to find how to give that to themselves was not shown by example. I think also it is something that they learn has to be continuously worked at.
I do think the main characters found redemption for the past.
I felt empathy for each character. It was very interesting to me to hear of their lives and circumstances so different than mine and feel the reasons that lead them to act the way they did. I did not judge them but knew they couldn’t help reacting as they did because of desperation due to poverty and fear and hopelessness. Conner was what gave them a reason to change and try to be better and love is what was the main theme to me.
I absolutely was rooting for these characters. And, in my opinion they made choices that were in line with their options and resources. Amadeo has a drinking problem, and I would’ve felt like his character was not real if he had made outstanding choices. Angel is a kid doing her best. It all felt real and I just wished that anyone in a similar situation could find the help they needed in those around them.
The only character I had little empathy for was Brianna, who abused her power over the girls in her program and could not show compassion for them as individuals when it mattered the most. Lizette was not wrong about her applying the rules unevenly, but instead of performing any self examination and trying to improve, Brianna became defensive and doubled down on her mistakes. I know she was young, but she was supposed to be the adult in that situation. I was so infuriated when she kicked Angel out of the program that I had to stop reading for a… Read more »
Sometimes I didn’t root for a character I just watched from the sidelines until I knew more about them. I could identify with Yolanda’s battle with cancer as my husband is battling stage 4 cancer and like her tries to maintain some normalcy. Lissette was the most complex character in my opinion because you only had glimpses of the roots of her problems. Angelica was the easiest to have empathy fo. And a part of her was still a child that needed boundaries to be set by her parents and neither one of them was always capable of doing it.… Read more »
I have empathy for Amadeo Padilla. He is a mama’s boy and he hasn’t learned the proper choices. I think he can dislodge himself which he finally does after her death.