Official Review: Of Dreams & Thorns by J.C. Salazar

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Official Review: Of Dreams & Thorns by J.C. Salazar

Post by cristinaro » 12 Apr 2018, 12:18

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Of Dreams & Thorns" by J.C. Salazar.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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Stretching from the 1950s to the 1990s, J.C. Salazar’s novel Of Dreams and Thorns is the inspirational story of one man’s lifelong struggle to rise above his condition and make his family happy and proud. Twenty-eight-year-old Ramiro Ocañas lives in the traditional small Mexican village of Naranjales, where he tries to make ends meet for his wife, Eliza and their four children together. The young man’s economic prospects wither as the family’s land is gradually bought up by the large Monterrey conglomerates, so he decides to immigrate to America, the world of dreams come true. His life journey touches on a wide range of delicate issues, from the flaws and drawbacks of a patriarchal society to the multifaceted implications of immigration.

In Naranjales, Ramiro could consider himself lucky to belong to the Ocañas clan, one of the most respected families in the village. In Chicago, he quickly becomes “the other”, the ignorant Mexican immigrant forced to face the reality of his own limitations and to experience the full impact of the cultural clash. The author does a great job in portraying Ramiro’s fear and confusion in the big city. The language barrier makes him feel like a deaf-mute, helpless and invisible to the engulfing Gringo crowds. Ramiro has no intention of staying in America forever. He only wants to work for a few years to earn enough money to go back to his homeland and buy his little farm. Not everything goes as planned, though. His journey will prove more of a sinuous path rather than a sensational adventure.

Despite its general realistic note, the novel is wonderfully punctuated with poetical descriptions of the fertile Monterrey valley or the colorful Californian fruit orchards. Many of the traditions of the typical Mexican family are reiterated in the migrant community in self-imposed exile. The third-person narrator skillfully uses flashbacks to plunge into Ramiro’s bitter-sweet recollections and to solve the puzzle of his complicated family history. Apart from the twists and turns in the protagonist’s destiny, the plot has many adjacent threads contributing to a better portrayal of interpersonal relationships in a diasporic community. There are shorter or longer Spanish insertions reflecting the picturesque and vivid image of a multicultural world.

As a character, Ramiro is credible and relatable. He is far from the conquering hero of a land of opportunities. We admire him for his strength and determination. Sometimes, we despise him for cheating on his wife or using physical correction to punish his children. We may blame him for his mistakes or we may not understand all of his decisions, but we may also envy him for the love and loyalty of his ever growing family. To my satisfaction, such an authoritative patriarchal figure in the novel does not exclude the presence of strong female characters such as his mother, Doña Lupita, or his wife, Eliza. With no patience for frivolous sentimentality or self-indulgent pity, Doña Lupita runs her household with a heavy hand and expects her sons and daughters to come up to her high standards. Eliza is perhaps the most interesting female character in the book because her portrait is a blending of light and shadows. She is committed to her dutiful role of wife and mother, but she is also the woman who secretly enjoys her newfound freedom when her husband goes to America. Her feeble attempts of emancipation will fully blossom in her two rebellious daughters, Alicia and Sylvia.

The author’s greatest achievement is his talent to stir one emotion after another in a bewildered reader who does not know what to feel or expect next. In spite of being a pleasant read, the book has its weaknesses. For example, the long and tedious descriptions of Ramiro’s money calculations or of the various roads taking him home could have been reduced or dropped out altogether. The few typos and grammar mistakes I have noticed did not spoil my joy of reading, but force me to give J.C. Salazar’s Of Dreams and Thorns only 3 out of 4 stars. Nevertheless, I recommend the book to all those interested in reading a troublesome immigrant tale of hardships, love and survival.

******
Of Dreams & Thorns
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Post by stacie k » 13 Apr 2018, 00:35

The author has done well to stir up emotions through his writing, thereby creating a truly inspiring story. I could learn a lot about the obstacles and hardships that immigrants have had to face. It requires a strength of character to persevere in these conditions. Thanks for a great review!
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Post by kandscreeley » 13 Apr 2018, 07:22

Poetical descriptions? Sounds lovely. In spite of the errors, this sounds like a really good book about rising above your circumstances in life. Thanks for the review and information!
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Post by cristinaro » 13 Apr 2018, 12:00

kandscreeley wrote:
13 Apr 2018, 07:22
Poetical descriptions? Sounds lovely. In spite of the errors, this sounds like a really good book about rising above your circumstances in life. Thanks for the review and information!
Just think of the metaphorical connotations of the title! Of Dreams and Thorns! It made me think of roses. They are so beautiful, but they have their perfect defence mechanisms. :) If I am not wrong, I've read somewhere that poetry is not exactly your thing. As for myself, I love poetry. Anyway, the book is far from being too poetical considering the tough life the characters have or all the problems they have to overcome to achieve their dreams. Thanks for reading!
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Post by cristinaro » 13 Apr 2018, 12:07

stacie k wrote:
13 Apr 2018, 00:35
The author has done well to stir up emotions through his writing, thereby creating a truly inspiring story. I could learn a lot about the obstacles and hardships that immigrants have had to face. It requires a strength of character to persevere in these conditions. Thanks for a great review!
As you well know, immigration is still a very controversial topic today. This is one of the reasons I think books like these are very important. Thus, we can have an insight view on what it means to be an immigrant and we can learn to respect their struggle and determination to succeed. Thank you for kind words and comments!
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Post by Dolor » 13 Apr 2018, 15:00

I could relate to the familial situation in the story because my parents brought me and my siblings up in that same way. Too much strict and whenever we commit an even simple mistake, they can't seem to have their hands off. The punishment is either a pinch everywhere on the body, a spank on the head, or a whip using a coconut broomstick. That's how they disciplined us. Though I'm grateful, I had also rebelled in a peaceful way because of that upbringing.

Thanks for the detailed review.

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Post by bookowlie » 13 Apr 2018, 19:57

Great review! I like books with a strong setting so I am going to take a look at the Amazon sample. Despite the errors and some excessive descriptions, the subject matter sounds interesting.
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Post by cristinaro » 14 Apr 2018, 12:17

Dolor wrote:
13 Apr 2018, 15:00
I could relate to the familial situation in the story because my parents brought me and my siblings up in that same way. Too much strict and whenever we commit an even simple mistake, they can't seem to have their hands off. The punishment is either a pinch everywhere on the body, a spank on the head, or a whip using a coconut broomstick. That's how they disciplined us. Though I'm grateful, I had also rebelled in a peaceful way because of that upbringing.

Thanks for the detailed review.
Although my own parents never physically disciplined me, they were strict and demanding too, so I can understand what you mean. The same happened to Ramiro's children. Much later in life they understood the sacrifices their parents did for them and they learnt to see beyond their harsh attitude. Thanks for reading!
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Post by cristinaro » 14 Apr 2018, 12:23

bookowlie wrote:
13 Apr 2018, 19:57
Great review! I like books with a strong setting so I am going to take a look at the Amazon sample. Despite the errors and some excessive descriptions, the subject matter sounds interesting.
The errors are actually reduced to a minimum and I only noticed them because of my trained eye. The sometimes tedious descriptions I mentioned are acceptable if you think of the context. For example, considering Ramiro's dream to forget about poverty and buy his own farm, it is understandable for him to be obssessed with saving each and every penny, hence his exasperating money calculations. It's all a matter of perspective. Thanks for reading!
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Post by Libs_Books » 15 Apr 2018, 12:50

This sounds like a fascinating book, offering a real insight into the plight of the migrant labourer. I enjoyed your summary of the different characters in Ramiro's family.

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Post by cristinaro » 16 Apr 2018, 02:47

Libs_Books wrote:
15 Apr 2018, 12:50
This sounds like a fascinating book, offering a real insight into the plight of the migrant labourer. I enjoyed your summary of the different characters in Ramiro's family.
Thank you. In fact, being an only child, I guess I have always been fascinated by what it means to be part of a very large family. In this novel, family roots, love and unity shape the destiny of both Ramiro and his 7 children.
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Post by ButterscotchCherrie » 16 Apr 2018, 13:16

Sounds as if this book provides compelling and colourful insights into the experiences of an immigrant, and the family left behind. Thanks for your detailed and interesting review.

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Post by Sarah Tariq » 17 Apr 2018, 03:00

That's good the author use excellent emotional interpretation of characters. I like this simple reality-based story. Thanks for your insightful review.
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Post by cristinaro » 17 Apr 2018, 05:26

ButterscotchCherrie wrote:
16 Apr 2018, 13:16
Sounds as if this book provides compelling and colourful insights into the experiences of an immigrant, and the family left behind. Thanks for your detailed and interesting review.
Without spoiling the fun of reading, I can tell you there's a great scene of a big family gathering toward the end of the novel. I think that one is among the best in the novel and speaks a lot of what it means to be able to count on the support of a large family.
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Post by cristinaro » 17 Apr 2018, 05:32

Sarah Tariq wrote:
17 Apr 2018, 03:00
That's good the author use excellent emotional interpretation of characters. I like this simple reality-based story. Thanks for your insightful review.
Sometimes, simplicity hides a lot of depth in terms of strong feelings and emotions. For example, neither Ramiro nor his wife were used to openly express their mutual love and affection. Years later, their daughters Alicia and Esmeralda hold dear precisely the memories of the very few moments when they saw their father showing care and tenderness. Thanks for reading!
"The madness of writing is the antidote to true madness." (Hanif Kureishi)

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