Back when my mom was a kid, learning ballet folklórico was practically mandatory. Unfortunately, it was something I didn’t learn, but have always admired. As a special outing near my birthday last year, my husband took me to see the Ballet Folklórico de México at a performance they did with our local Community Ballet Association. We – and other brave audience members – drove through a severe ice storm to see the show, and it was worth it. The show was breathtaking, and included wonderful mariachis and grand costumes, all of which I didn’t expect.
Reyna Grande brings readers into the world of a folklórico dance troupe, weaving the stories of four women, Yesenia, Elena, Adriana, and Soledad. Yesenia, the founder of dance group Alegría, faces demons of middle age and a long marriage. Elena, a teacher, finds her life turned upside down after the loss of her pregnancy. Adriana, Elena’s sister, rebels against a rough childhood through loose relationships with hard men and distancing herself from Elena. Soledad is an illegal immigrant who finds her dream of becoming a costume designer may be dashed forever. The story is told alternating between each woman’s point of view; their lives at first tangent circles that slowly begin to overlap.
What I really liked about this book is that it tells FRESH stories about four women. Void of cliché character development, Grande presents a nuanced vision of the lives of women without judging, preaching, or stereotyping. The reader of this book will come away with not only stories about individuals but stories about relationships. Each woman faces her own challenges in her romantic relationships, but they also face challenges as sisters and friends. In the end, Grande shows us that friendships are always what we come back to after facing life’s challenges.