Book Review: "Sisters, Strangers, and Starting Over" by Belinda Acosta

Beatriz Sánchez-Milligan is shocked when her 14-year-old niece, Celeste, stumbles into her 25th wedding anniversary party. Celeste reveals that her mother, Perla, has died and that she has nowhere else to go. Beatriz immediately takes Celeste in-a decision that troubles her husband, Larry, who remembers that wherever Perla went, trouble followed. He worries his wife is rushing in without having all the facts. Undaunted, Beatriz begins to plan a quinceañera for Celeste; but the party planning doesn't comfort Celeste, nor does it ease Beatriz's pain. She feels guilty for losing contact with Perla, and that guilt grows deeper when she meets Josie Mendoza, a journalist who reveals that Perla may have been murdered. Beatriz wants to adopt Celeste to make peace with her late sister, but Larry still has concerns. For the first time, their rock solid marriage starts to crumble, and a frightened, young girl is caught in the middle. Somehow Beatriz must find a way to save her family, before the ghosts of her past tear it apart.

As someone who is in an interracial marriage and of minority culture, I adore reading multicultural books that focus on both of those aspects. I'm not always looking for insight into serious conversations dealing with these subjects, but it's always nice to see them pop up in literature and therefore become exposed to more readers. I had really enjoyed the first book in this series, Damas, Dramas and Ana Ruiz, because it gave a great representation of an intro to Latin American culture and the importance of what a quinceañera represents to the family. When I heard there would be another book in the Quinceañera Club series, I was excited to return back to the adventures of the close knit family.

The book starts off at the anniversary celebration of husband and wife Larry and Beatriz. It is interesting to note that Larry is Irish American while Beatriz's family is from Mexico. The couple celebrate their differences together, with both having made attempts throughout their years of marriage to get accustomed to the others culture. It's quite clear that the two love each other and are willing to do everything to make the other happy. Until Perla shows up.

Perla is the daughter of Beatriz's estranged little sister who Beatriz turned away years ago. She's felt horribly guilty about this her entire life and sees this as a chance to redeem herself and acts like her sister is back again. Meanwhile Larry is wary of this girl coming into their lives especially after he has already made plans for a future with Beatriz after their kids have left the house. The two of them spend a lot of time bickering over Perla to the point where their once perfect marriage is now in jeopardy. There were times throughout the story where I would get annoyed at Beatriz for not thinking about Larry's feelings and then I'd read a few more pages and get annoyed at Larry for being stubborn. I really liked how there was a balance with this. This way the reader doesn't side with one character too much and flaws and faults are shown so that the reader can see that both are not entirely right in their decisions.

There are two other side stories in addition to the Perla/Beatriz/Larry triangle. One involves Larry's sister, who is emotionally immature and pretty much abandons her kids every day to Larry and Beatriz. It frustrated and disgusted me to see this "mother" treat her children this way and also shows the contrast between her and Beatriz. It's really sad that women who don't deserve children have them when women who would love to be mothers can't. The other story involves a reporter who is trying to find Perla to return a special keepsake from her mother. She feels to blame for Perla's situation due to a story she was working on involving violence on women in the area that they were from. I wish more had been talked about the story she was working on as I think more awareness needs to be brought to light.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. It's a great way to see how mothers interact with their children (both the good and the bad) and gives a wonderful sense of the power of family. I've already mentioned how much of a wonderful multi-cultural book this is and how it gives a sense that it's ok to celebrate one's differences. There's some Spanglish sprinkled in the story, but not as bad as last time where even with my studies in Spanish I still couldn't translate all of it. So far, this series has been a hit and I'll be looking forward to more books in the series. If you're in the mood for some culture in your life, mixed with a mother/daughter story, this book is perfect for you. HIGHLY recommended.

Sisters, Strangers, and Starting Over by Belinda Acosta is published by Grand Central Publishing (2010)

This ARC was provided by the publisher


  1. I think it's more than okay to celebrate differences! Our differences are what make people so interesting and worth getting to know.

  2. Oh, I love the layered sound of this book...and another fabulous cover. Reminds me of the video to Corinne Bailey Rae's song, "Girl, put your records on."


  3. I ordered one copy of that book. I am so excited to read it. I am sure that it as good as the other books that Belinda Acosta wrote. I can't wait for that book to be delivered.


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