“Don’t even think about running away. You’re parents will just sell you to another family. A family who doesn’t treat you as well as we do. Your parents don’t want you anymore. You hear me?” (p 33).
Born in an impoverished Andean village in Ecuador, Virginia is sold/given by her parents at the tender age of seven to a mestizo couple, light-skinned and rich and of Spanish origin. Being a longa tonta – a stupid Indian, indigenous – Virginia is their servant, taking care of their two children, the housekeeping and cooking.
The Doctorina – a dentist, teacher and the family’s breadwinner – is controlling and abusive to Virginia, treating her like an animal that needs breaking. Her husband, Niño Carlitos, acts as a father figure to Virginia, even teaching her to read, until she reaches adolescence and he becomes possessive and lustful.
Virginia is a brilliant character. She has such a strength to her. Her situation is not black and white but nuanced. As we travel with her – from a poor small mud hut where her father’s beatings leave her legs scarred and her mother’s cutting words leave her emotionally scarred to the Doctorina’s more elegant apartment in Kuna Yaku, where luxury comes at the price of her heritage -we also travel from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood.
I feel like the water that transforms from a flowing river to a tranquil lake to a powerful waterfall to a freshwater spring to a meandering creek to a salty sea to raindrops gentle on your face, stinging hail to frost on a mountaintop, and back to a river again (p 340).
Readers will identify with her as a defiant child, a servant bent on subterfuge, a wily student who learns in secret, a star-crossed lover, a frightened beauty and finally, an independent thinker and ambitious youth.
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