Sunday 4 October 2015

We Never Asked For Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

How far would you go for your children?
Would you lie for them? Flee with them? Let someone else mother them if you thought they would do a better job?
As a single parent, Letty does everything for her two children - apart from raise them. Being a mother terrifies her more than she can admit, and so she's always let her mother take that role. When Maria Elena ups and leaves, however, Letty has to confront her fears and become the parent she doesn't think she can be.
Even as she tries to give her children a future, Letty's teenage son, Alex, struggles to forgive his mother for choices she made in the past. But he and Letty are not so dissimilar, and both are prepared to risk everything for those they love.
Honest and compelling, We Never Asked for Wings is about family; it's about the decisions we take, the mistakes we make, the people we trust, and, above all, how - and where - we find love.

We Never Asked For Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh was published by Mantle (Pan Macmillan) in hardback on 10 September 2015 and is the author's second novel.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh's first novel The Language Of Flowers was one of my first reviews on Random Things, I loved it then and I love it now. It's one of those quiet, slow, beautiful books that leaves a real imprint on your heart. It's a book that I recommend often. I have waited patiently for four years for her second novel, and I am delighted to say that the wait was worth it!

Just like The Language of Flowers, this novel is beautifully structured, the writing is elegant yet simple and the characters are so wonderfully created, each one of them with a voice of their own to add to this enchanting story.

The strongest theme within the story of We Never Asked For Wings is that of parenthood. Letty is the mother of two children; Alex is fourteen and Luna just six, and although she gave birth to them, and has lived with them for all of their lives, she has never been a mother to them. Letty can't tell you when they took their first steps, or said their first words. She's not sure what their favourite meal is or what they like to watch on television.

Becoming a mother at eighteen was not in Letty's life plan. It was not what her parents wanted for her either, or her teachers at high school. Letty was more than happy to hand over the parenting of Alex and Luna to her own mother, Maria Elana, whilst she stayed out late, went to parties and generally behaved just like her teenage friends.

When Maria Elena and her husband go back to Mexico and decide to stay there, Letty is terrified. She is on her own, sole provider and carer for two young lives. However, Letty is a fighter, and a worker and as she and Alex and Luna learn about each other, their love grows and Letty's maternal instincts take over. She becomes determined to make sure that her kids will have the best education, live in a nice neighbourhood and not make the same mistakes that she did.

Throughout this, young Alex is maturing too, and falling in love with Yesenia - a pretty Mexican girl who wears built up shoes and has scars on her back. He's also coming to terms with the fact that his beloved Grandfather will not be returning to guide him through life, so embarks on a mission to find out more about the father that he has never known.

I was completely entranced by We Never Asked For Wings, from the very first chapter. I started the book late on Friday afternoon and finally closed it on Saturday night. The characters had become part of me, I felt as though I was living and breathing their story.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh tells in her Acknowledgements, how difficult she found this second novel to write. She struggled for years and almost completely re-wrote it during that time. I can assure her, and her fans that the struggle was worth it. She once again, has produced a story that is so beautifully crafted, with characters that entrance and delight. Her intelligent insights into family relationships and the workings of the teenage brain is marvellous and adds such depth and meaning to the story.

Huge thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh was born and raised in northern California. 

After studying creative writing, she went on to teach art and technology to youth in low-income communities. She and her husband PK have four children: Donovan, Tre'von, Graciela and Miles. 

Vanessa is also the co-founder of Camellia Network, whose mission is to create a nationwide movement to support youth transitioning from foster care. 

She and and her family live in Monterey, California.

We Never Asked for Wings is her second novel. Her first, The Language of Flowers, was published in over forty countries, and was a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller in the UK.

More information can be found at her website

Follow her on Twitter @VDiffenbaugh      Find her author page on Facebook


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