4 out of 4 stars
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Julian Vida couldn't understand why his parents were mean to him. His father was a shrewd businessman who loved his money more than anything else. Julian's mother was also having an affair with a family friend, but he couldn't disclose that to his father for fear of losing him.
In 1961, after Castro's army ousted Batista's government in Cuba, Julian's father, Arturo, decided to send him out of the country. But even this decision was a selfish one because Arturo was interested in safeguarding his money more than his son's safety. Therefore, Julian must smuggle his parents' money and jewels into Manhattan, New York, at the age of 16. The problem is that his parents never appreciate anything he does, and they refuse to accept that Julian cannot remain the naive boy he was forever.
Concrete Wings by Beverly Gandara is a historical fiction book that follows Julian's fifty-year journey to adulthood. This coming-of-age tale is neither fast-paced nor action-packed. However, it is a smooth-sailing read about the vicissitudes of life, relatable family life, love, and self-discovery. The author's use of the first-person point of view is appropriate for the story, and I liked how it put me in the shoes of the protagonist. More so, I was able to relate to him and his journey better.
I enjoyed the historical lessons in the book. I haven't been conversant with the Cuban revolution, so I appreciate the insights into it. The author portrays the ethos of the 1960s and 1970s so excellently in this book. I like how it helped me to understand how people lived their lives at that time. At the beginning of the book, I enjoyed the oscillating narrations about the Cuban revolution in-between Julian's story. It just felt like two books in one. While one book was educating me, the other was entertaining me.
Above all, I liked the excellent characterization in the book. It helps that the characters are well-developed, unique, and lifelike. I couldn't help but feel sorry for Julian. It must hurt to love your parents and be untrusted and unappreciated by them in return. However, I was also able to empathize with Julian's mother despite her shortcomings. Julian's father, Arturo, is also relatable, considering his experiences while growing up. I also liked how evident the realistic nature of the characters was in their dialogues. Their conversations were natural and distinct. I love that!
Furthermore, I enjoyed the humor in the book. Arturo's way of doing things is hilarious. He couldn't adapt to his new environment and never trusted anybody. I laughed out loud when Arturo hid his telephone in the refrigerator because he didn't want burglars to make use of it if they broke into his house. What a funny man!
To conclude, there wasn't anything that I disliked about this book. I, therefore, rate Concrete Wings 4 out of 4 stars. The book is professionally edited and has only one error in it. Due to some profanities in it, the book is unsuitable for kids. Otherwise, I believe readers who love coming-of-age fiction stories would find this book very fascinating.
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