motorcycle ride on the sea of tranquility by Patricia Santana 276 pages
I remember reading this book years ago and loving it. Since I can’t remember exactly when, I checked the copyright page, a first edition from 2002. I checked Amazon and it says 2004. I just remember loving it. I’ve had its follow up, ghosts of el grullo, on my shelf for years. I wanted to read that, so I knew that I had to go back and read this one so the story would be fresh.
The time is 1969. Vietnam is raging. Chuy Sahagun is coming home from the war, and one of his sisters (there are five) is so excited. Chuy is fourteen-year-old Yolanda’s favorite of her four brothers. The story opens as the family is preparing for Chuy to arrive at their San Diego suburb home. The decorations are going up, the food is being prepared, and the music is being selected. No one know for sure when Chuy will arrive, but they want to be ready.
When he does arrive, it is obvious that he is not the same person. He hardly speaks, and stands at attention. The family feels the strangeness, yet don’t push him. After only a few days at home, he takes off on a motorcycle, without a word to anyone, which he has just acquired.
The Sahagun family is quite worried, but life goes on. We see Yoli struggle to grow up in a three-bedroom home where eleven people (well, now that Chuy is gone, ten) people live.
After four months away with barely any contact, Chuy arrives home on July 20, the day Neil Armstrong walks on the moon. Chuy pulls up just as the event is about to happen and the family misses it. Chuy still hasn’t returned to his former self, and winds up being diagnosed with PTSD and in and out of the VA hospital.
Yoli is the narrator or this first-person tale about life growing up in the summer of ‘69, when America was changing faster than a teenager’s body. Chuy and his struggle to adapt once he’s back home is the catalyst that propels this novel.
I didn’t like care for motorcycle ride on the sea of tranquility as much as I did when I first read it. It’s a great read, but the Spanish words that weren’t translated made it seem a little choppy. Still, I found that old fondness for Yoli’s wonderful voice, which prompts motorcycle ride on the sea of tranquility to receive 5 out of 5 stars in Julie’s world.