Author: Christina Gonzalez
Genre: Historical Fiction (MG/YA)
Publication: 2010 by Alfred A. Knopf
The Red Umbrella is 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.
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.
General: I was absolutely thrilled to be reading this book for the 2010 Debut Author Challenge. It looked (and the reviews showed) to be a moving tale of a Cuban girl and life's changes. When I got the book and started reading it, I was afraid it was going to be just terrible. Because there's none of the thrilling action of the Cuban revolution the summary seems to promise. Of course, the book totally picked up and I enjoyed every second of it. It's a quick and easy read; the print is rather large and it doesn't have an enormous amount of pages. But in the short amount of time it took to read, the story had a huge impact on me and left me teary-eyed more than once.
Plot: The story revolves mainly around a 14-year-old girl named Lucia. She's living a carefree life in Cuba, all the while totally uninterested in the horrors of the Cuban revolution going on around her. She is more interested by the new American fashion magazines and cute guys from school. Suddenly, she is jerked into reality when her own family is directly put in danger because of the revolution. No longer does it seem a far-off problem left to the adults to mull over in hushed whispers after the children are in bed. As the plot unfolds, it reveals a beautiful and fascinatingly thought-provoking storyline one is not sure to ever forget.
Characters: The characters are extremely likable, and very skillfully written and developed. Every character seems to just be calling for you to fall in love with them and get involved in their fictional lives. It's a beautiful reading experience each and every American unaware of the privileges we have in living in the United States. Historical Fiction isn't really my forte, and it's not necessarily my favorite; I find it hard to relate to, and thus difficult to get INTO the book. But for this book, not so. The writing and the characters just invite you in, to immerse yourself in all its beauty.
This book defied my every expectation, when I was THIS close to putting it down because I felt it wouldn't rise to them. It's a heartwarming storyline free of sugar-coating; an emotionally charged plot filled with deep feeling. It's not a glorified war novel or a dramatic story of survival. It's a story of hope and never letting go of what you hold inside your heart.The title, The Red Umbrella has powerful significance, and when that significance was revealed, it left tears in my eyes and a tug on my heartstrings. Christina Gonzalez's novel is a story of living a life of love despite the suffering in the world. It's the treasure of family, the value of freedom, and the true meaning of home.
Cover Grade: A