Review of This Side of Providence by Rachel M. Harper

Arcelia Perez flees Puerto Rico to escape an abusive husband. She takes her small This Side of Providence by Rachel M. Harperdaughter Luz, but leaves her son Cristo behind when she boards a plane to NYC. Somewhere along the way, she decides that taking drugs is the way to forget a painful and abusive past. Will she overcome her drug addiction or will it finally consumer her?

Oh boy, did I have issues with this book. On one hand, it’s a beautifully written, heartfelt fictional account of a woman’s struggle with her inner demons and the casualties of her actions – her innocent children. On the other hand, I found it extremely difficult to feel the least bit sorry of Arcelia. At no time was I able to connect with her, although aside from the heroine addiction we surprisingly had quite a lot in common.

I would have liked some more backstory, regarding how Arcelia went from a small town girl to a heroin addict. What made her turn to drugs once she was free of her abusive husband? I also took issue with the fact that she left Cristo behind in the first place. Why not take both children?

Why are we supposed to feel sorry for her? (Or maybe we’re not, I’m not sure) Because she obviously can’t get past the child abuse she’s suffered at the hands of her neighbor and her own cousin so she turns to drugs? I get that heroin addiction is a sickness, but isn’t what she ended up doing to her own children considered abuse? Neglect is clearly child abuse. We’re supposed to believe she’d do anything for her children because she loves them so much, yet she continuously exhibits an “I’m damaged so I’m going to damage my children too” mentality.

At one point, her on again, off again girlfriend Lucho tells Arcelia that she’s a “survivor”. In my opinion, she’s not a survivor, she’s a weak and selfish destroyer. In fact, I found all the females, except Luz, to be weak and pathetic. They all had some sort of addiction that they used to cover up something. Everyone of them.

Javier bemoaned the fact that Arcelia “stole” his children, yet he’s the one who put Cristo on the plane to New York to be reunited with his mother. And, in all the years since, Javier never once tries to find his children. Yet both parents profess their undying love for them. The children are the only ones capable of genuinely loving anyone.

Although I didn’t like several of the characters – in fact, I really only liked the children’s characters – I still have to give this book four solid stars. I was hooked from the start, read late into the night and thought about the story long after I finished. Maybe it was the train wreck factor, maybe I was driven because I wanted to know what happens to those poor kids, but it definitely made me think and feel. The author has a compelling way of expressing the feelings of her characters, which certainly makes me want to read more from her.

4 of 5 Stars, Review by Susan Barton

eBook Review Gal received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.