Say You’ll Be Mine: Parte de Julia Amante
By Richard Soto
Grand Central Publishing of New York City has done it again in publishing Julia Amante’s second novel set in Temecula, California and Argentina. In her second book, Ms. Amante explores with great sensitivity the delicate issues of child adoption, child rearing, love, cultural nationalism, discrimination and success.
The story follows Isabel Gallegos, the daughter of Argentine immigrants who came to the United States. Isabel was brought by her parents to make a new life and claim the American Dream. Isabel, raised and schooled in Argentina. She is a confident and successful Spanish-English bilingual Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a winery in Temecula, Southern California. In the process of getting to the top, though, she loses sight of other personal dreams and separates from her alcoholic husband with whom she must remain in contact on a daily basis at work.
One day, she receives a telegram from Argentina informing her that her best friend and prima (cousin), along with her husband, has been killed in a tragic skiing accident and has left her three preteen children in her custody. The fun begins: custody battles with a much disliked primo (cousin) in-law, international legal issues in regards to minors, parenting skills and questions of who is a better guardian ensue, pitting a divorced winery CEO who has never had children and works 15 hours a day against a never married, self-made rancher and attorney who feel he owes it to his deceased brother to care for the children. Both parties really do not want the responsibility, but when forced, attempt to use their personal fortunes to buy the children’s affection.
In the process of trying to do what is best for the children all the adults involved learn the true meaning of love, the sacrifices that one has to make and that money cannot buy love.
Amante deals quite adeptly with the issues of love and responsibilities of being a parent vs. friend, and handles the issues of alcoholism, recovery and treatment sensitively. However, when the Spanish-only speaking children come to California, the especially young Adelmo is picked on and discriminated against because of his accent and ethnicity. The 10 year old, developing Sandra who is looking for a mother figure in her life and eight year old Adelmo who is looking for a father figure and young Julieta who just wants to cuddle and be loved want to stay with Isabel, but they, and especially Adelmo, want to return to Argentina. It would have been a deeper story had the author had gone deeper into the ethno-racism that she hinted at, but maybe as a Central American she does not feel the generational and historical experience that Mexicans have experienced since the “Gold Rush” of 1849 and half of Mexico’s country.
This is an exciting and easy to read book that I would recommend to all from high school age and older. You will enjoy it.
The Council for the Spanish Speaking of the Catholic Dioceses of Stockton (El Concilio) will be presenting Ms. Amante at their Annual Latina Luncheon on Friday, May 4, 2012 at the Stockton Golf and Country Club. Tickets can be purchased for $35.00 and this and other works by Julia will be available for purchase.