PORRIDGE & CUCU is the poignant tale of Yamila—from her earliest memories of Panama. One major character is her ninety-eight year old grandfather, who shares with her the ghost stories of his childhood. Other characters are her grandmother, her parents, and her brother.
When Yamila’s mother-–a teacher--leaves to attend the University of Missouri, Yamila becomes a boarding student at St. Michael’s School for Girls. She tries to overcome a loneliness she had never experienced before.
Once her family leaves for the USA (to re-unite with her mother), she re-adjusts to a new school, new relatives, and a new life. At novel's end, Yamila witnesses an indigenous girl’s rite of passage ceremony, and experiences one herself.
Artist Christine Yen Chong designed the book's cover, which
features Panama's beautiful indigenous art.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
I think what made this book interesting was that there was no real big plot. We simply follow and read excerpts of Yamila’s childhood and life in Panama and in the US. Each chapter had 2-3 anecdotes, all of them short but sweet. As for the narration, the prose was beautiful and realistically written. It was poetic, but at the same time, easy to understand. From a reader’s standpoint, I could tell that the internal narration was written in such a way that it portrayed effectively how a four or five year old girl would think and reflect. I particularly loved how the author depicted Yamila’s fears and insecurities, such as her feeling of getting a lack of attention after her younger brother, Romulo, was born; and how she felt left out in school activities because she was a year younger.
It is not a guarantee that this book will work for everyone, but it worked for me because it was really different. I enjoyed it tremendously that I wanted to read it slowly so that I could absorb it more. There are a few reasons why I didn’t give this a 5 out of 5, though:
1.) I felt that Part I was better than Part II. Part 1 is basically Yamila’s life, while Part II focuses on her grandfather’s brothers. While the second part was good, it didn’t hold me as much as Part I did, but nevertheless, they were great reads.
2.) At the beginning, there were a lot of awkward phrases, missing commas, and change of tenses. But they quickly disappeared after a chapter or two, though, so it’s not that big of a deal.
All in all, it was a pleasant read. I wish there was more, though! It was too short! A mere 141 pages isn’t enough! Would I recommend it? Yes! It’s something I’d recommend to people who need a change of pace, or to people who want a feel-good story with little to no drama.
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