The Time it Snowed in Puerto Rico by Sarah McCoy
Published by Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House
It is 1961, and Verdita is starting to strain against the realities of her small mountain town in Puerto Rico. She is 11 and not yet a seniorita, but at the same time, Verdita feels very much like she is growing up and needs a degree of freedom and change she cannot find where she is. The most oppressive figure in Verdita’s life is her mother, not for her mother’s actions, but for what she represents. Unlike Verdita’s father, her mother speaks no English, and is more than content in their small town, wanting nothing more than to be with her family. Verdita, by contrast, longs for the excitement of San Juan or, better yet, America. In truth, Verdita dreams of America, especially after interacting with her cousin who moved there and his American friend, back in Puerto Rico for a visit.
“The Time it Snowed in Puerto Rico” is a lovely coming of age story of a young girl dreaming of a life different from her own. McCoy did a wonderful job getting into the head of an eleven year old; it definitely seemed a capricious pre-teen was narrating, not an adult. This did make some of the narration and reasoning a bit choppy at times, but it absolutely seemed intentional, or at least a by-product of the voice being used.
I really loved the details about Verdita’s life in Puerto Rico, particularly the section about John F. Kennedy’s visit to the country, and the edges of what Verdita came to understand about the internal conflict in Puerto Rico whether to remain connected to the United States or assert independence. This provided a nice mirror to Verdita’s own struggles with to what extent she wanted to maintain ties to her home or become increasingly independent. McCoy’s childhood spent visiting relatives in Puerto Rico really added a depth and vibrancy to her descriptions and story.
At just over 200 pages, this is a rather short book. And if I have one real criticism, it is that I would have liked to see some elements of Verdita’s life and internal monologue expanded and fleshed out a little more, making it a little bit longer book. It was perhaps a little too brief for me.
This would be a great books for book clubs: it has great themes for discussion, is not too long (for those of you with book club members who shy away from books over 300 pages), is now out in paperback, and even includes a discussion guide in the back.
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