The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez: Book Review

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez is one of the three books that I was lucky to get signed at Books of Wonder earlier this summer. I finally got around to reading it yesterday!

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalezis the moving tale of a 14-year-old girl’s journey from Cuba to America as part of Operation Pedro Pan—an organized exodus of more than 14,000 unaccompanied children, whose parents sent them away to escape Fidel Castro’s revolution.

Book Summary: In 1961, two years after the Communist revolution, Lucía Álvarez still leads a carefree life, dreaming of parties and her first crush. But when the soldiers come to her sleepy Cuban town, everything begins to change. Freedoms are stripped away. Neighbors disappear. Her friends feel like strangers. And her family is being watched.

As the revolution’s impact becomes more oppressive, Lucía’s parents make the heart-wrenching decision to send her and her little brother to the United States—on their own.

Suddenly plunked down in Nebraska with well-meaning strangers, Lucía struggles to adapt to a new country, a new language, a new way of life. But what of her old life? Will she ever see her home or her parents again? And if she does, will she still be the same girl?

The Red Umbrella is a moving story of country, culture, family, and the true meaning of home.

I thought that Christina Diaz Gonzalez really captured the time period she was writing about in THE RED UMBRELLA. It was so fascinating to read about the Cuban revolution from another point of view. Learning about events in history class has a different perspective than being at that moment and experiencing it for yourself. The Red Umbrella was able to put me in Lucia’s position. I loved how I was able to put myself in her shoes, wondering  about Castro, why her parents are so against his ideals, and seeing for myself how things are not always how they seem. I was able to relate to Lucia’s political turmoil as she tried to grasp the difficult concepts presented to her. I thought that it was very realistic, and I felt bad that Lucia had to undergo all this stress on top of problems with boys, best friends, family, and her social life.

Furthermore, I believe that Christina Diaz Gonzalez had captured life of the immigrant so well in THE RED UMBRELLA, from the insecurities of not learning how to speak English to acting the “right” way on the first day of school. Reading about Lucia’s new experiences felt like I was being teleported back to the third grade. I felt like if I had read this back then, I would have been able to relate so well with Lucia.

A “problem” I had with THE RED UMBRELLA by Christina Diaz Gonzalez is not so much about the writing or what’s actually in the story, but the fact that the cover jacket gave out a little too much in my opinion. Just by reading the cover jacket, I knew what was going to happen in a third of THE RED UMBRELLA by Christina Diaz Gonzalez. As a reader, I really love surprises, and it is a big disappointment for me when much of the story has already been summarized for me. If I already know what is going to happen, there is a lot less enticement for me. While I didn’t have the feeling of being at the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next, I was very intrigued by Lucia’s story and her difficulties following her move. I understand that a lot of development has to be written in order to understand her character, and it did help as a reader to get closer to Lucia.

Overall, The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez was touching, inspiring, and a great historical fiction read. Christina Diaz Gonzalez writes beautifully and I’m certain that her future novels will be just as good as this one. I give THE RED UMBRELLA a rating of three stars: StarStarStar

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