4 out of 4 stars
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The Land of Sunshine and Hell by Maxene Raices is a memoir by a woman who has led a fascinating life. The book is extremely well-written and keeps the reader engaged in the story. Maxene has had heart-breaking experiences in her life. She grew up in a time when teenage pregnancy was a dark secret to be hidden away from the world. When she discovered that she was pregnant, she made the decision to give the baby up for adoption. It was not an easy decision, but she felt it was her only option.
Maxene was young and naïve when she discovered she was pregnant. She had been accepted into college and had dreams of becoming a teacher. The pregnancy changed her plans drastically. When she decided to have the baby, her mother made the arrangements for the adoption. Maxene felt helpless to make any other decision. She was sent away to live with a family friend to avoid scandal. Once the baby was born, she started college in the Spring semester as though nothing had happened. However, she knew the truth and struggled with the loss. In addition to a teenage pregnancy, Maxene also experienced an abusive marriage later in her life. When she gave birth to her second child, she knew she had to leave the abusive relationship.
The author wrote a heart-wrenching story about her life and the obstacles she faced. The emotions she felt as a young girl still seem fresh in her mind. She repeatedly described feeling invisible. It was interesting to have the author describe the grief she felt when she gave her child up for adoption. Grief is an emotion we don’t usually associate with adoptions, but she suffered a huge loss that was not acknowledged, not even by her family. The author repeatedly described the web of lies necessary to keep her secret and avoid gossip. Many readers may relate to her experiences or have empathy for her and what she went through. Her resilience is admirable and enjoyable to read. I think this book would appeal to a wide variety of readers.
This book is an interesting look at unwanted pregnancy during this time. The author also touched upon the process for locating adopted children and resources that were available at the time. I especially appreciated when she included diary entries from when she went through these experiences. They added to the story by providing a depth of emotion that she felt in the moment. The author’s writing style was engaging and kept me interested in the story from beginning to end.
I enjoyed reading this book. The subject matter of teenage pregnancy may be inappropriate for young readers, but there were no graphic sexual situations. There were a few minor errors, but they did not take away from my enjoyment of the book. I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys reading memoirs or stories of resilience. I give this book a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. The author has led an interesting life.
The Land of Sunshine and Hell
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