**The Barnes on this matter mother and daughter agree. So this is also a love story, in which Salomé discovers that she will give up everything her writing, her social activism, finally her health for the man she loves, and Camilla discovers that she will sacrifice her secure teaching position in the U.S., the approval of family, friends and erstwhile lovers for the very thing her mother's passionate poetry taught her: love for the land and the people who give life to it.
Alvarez's skillful prose styling distinguishes the two women not only through the details of their lives but also through their meticulously wrought voices. Moreover, just as interesting as what distinguishes them from one another is what unites them: the pull of public life on their private lives and the challenges presented by the conventions that govern their lives as women. And they and we thrill equally to the ultimate discovery we're all reaching for, "that hushed and holy moment...when the word becomes flesh."
In a book rich in extended metaphor, where poetry and idealism play a huge role, we are never encumbered with abstraction. This is a writer going at full tilt: wry, wise, ironic, forgiving. She, like both the women of this novel, is an educator, though neither didactic nor condescending. Even though we know from the beginning the details about the end of both mother's and daughter's lives, Alvarez manages to sustain an air of suspense throughout, the point being not what happens, but how it comes about, and at what cost.
*Susan Thames is the author of a book of short stories, AS MUCH AS I KNOW. Her novel *I'll Be Home Late Tonight was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection.