ghosts of el grullo by Patricia Santana 296 pages
ghosts of el grullo is the follow-up to Patricia Santana’s debut novel, motorcycle ride on the sea of tranquility, which was selected as one of the best fiction books for young adults by the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association.
The time is now 1973. Many things have changed for the Sahagun family. Carolina has married her boyfriend Tom, Ana Maria is still secretly dating Tony, Antonio is married, and Octavio has chosen bachelorhood and lives in a trailer park a few doors down from Chuy. Chuy remains haunted by his tout in Vietnam back in 1969. The narrator, Yolanda (or Yoli for short) is still best friends with Lydia. But now Yoli has been accepted at the University of California---San Diego and is preparing to go live in a dorm.
When Mama dies from cancer and Papa decides to sell the house, Yoli struggles between wanting to keep the family together (she, Ana Maria, Monica and Luz are still living in the family home) and wanting to cut all the ties and live life on her terms. In an effort to understand her mother now that she is gone, Yoli goes to visit her aunts, her mother’s sisters, in El Grullo, Mexico. There she encounters the ghosts of past and present. She learns what her parents were like before they married: Mama an upper-class senorita who fell for her poor Papa.
I struggled to find Yoli’s voice in this second novel. There were times when I could hear the voice and that kept me reading. I had trouble trying to care about what happened in El Grullo; I was much more interested in what was happening in the San Diego suburb of Palm City where the Sahagun home was located.
I Googled Patricia Santana to learn if she had written any more follow-ups or other stand-along novels. I was disappointed to find her website only this book and motorcycle ride on the sea of tranquility. I think she is a wonderful writer.
As much as wanted to love ghosts of el grullo as much as I loved motorcycle ride on the sea of tranquility the first time I read it, I found myself just not caring about Yoli’s search for her past, present, or future. That’s why ghosts of el grullo, receives 3 out of 5 stars in Julie’s world.