The Amado Women provides the type of reading that is easy and pleasant enough for a beach read while still offering substance and quality—sort of like Little Women meets a telenovela. Perhaps the chief accomplishment of Zamorano’s novel is that it presents the complex and varying lives of middle-class Latinas, a feat that is widely under-represented in American literature. Fitting, then, that the book should be published by Cinco Puntos Press, a publishing house devoted Latino fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for all ages. (A great press for bilingual children’s books!)
The charming narrative of The Amado Women takes place in California and spans several decades, conveying the interwoven stories of matriarch Mercedes (Mercy) Amado and her three very different daughters, Celeste, Sylvia, y Nataly. We learn that each of these women has something profoundly human to hide from su familia and quickly we wonder if their truths will surface and if so, will they bring everyone closer together or create a rift that they’ll be unable to repair.
Mercy is a beloved school teacher, fostering happy relationships with her students as she struggles to forget some of the uglier aspects of her past. Celeste, Mercy’s career-driven eldest daughter who left home at eighteen for greener pastures, has had her share of hardships and prefers to bury herself in work and the troubles of others rather than focus on her own problems. She and her youngest sister Nataly have a tumultuous relationship, which makes sense given that Nataly is a free-spirited artist waiting tables—in many respects the opposite of Celeste. Nataly is the only Amado woman still in contact with their father, whom Mercy divorced after learning some of his secrets. Sylvia (like many middle siblings) often finds herself brokering peace between her sisters as she herself is always caught in the middle of her their feuding relationship. All of this, though, is mostly manageable, compared to the secrets of Sylvia’s marriage. The action of the novel is set around Sylvia and her marriage to a seemingly work-obsessed husband, Jack, and their two young daughters, Becky and Miriam. Sylvia’s mother and sisters aren’t privy to the realities of Sylvia’s marriage and when little Becky ends up in the hospital things begin to unravel.
Zamorano’s novel does a great job of demonstrating the tensions that exists in all families and the type of love necessary to keep things from falling apart. Strong women abound in this novel (Amado or not) and by the end you might be wishing it really were a telenovela so you can keep watching where these intricate and relatable characters wind up.