cover image If I Bring You Roses

If I Bring You Roses

Marisel Vera. Grand Central, $13.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-446-57153-1

Inspired by her own family history, Vera's debut offers vivid evocations of place, but a predictable story in which love requires compromise regardless of traditional gender roles. The novel opens in a poverty-stricken community in Puerto Rica in the summer of 1942. Eldest daughter Felicidad Hidalgo, who shares a tiny, makeshift house with her parents and seven siblings, must try to succeed as the female head of the household since she can't rely on her mentally unstable mother. Life takes a happier turn when she is sent to live and work in her aunt's richer household. Hard-working and determined to create a better future for herself, Felicidad finds her loins aflame with desire when she meets sex-crazed playboy An%C3%ADbal Acevedo, who is immediately attracted to her purity and innocence. The couple marries and Felicidad eventually moves to Chicago to join her husband. The decade's social changes test their Puerto Rican cultural traditions, and An%C3%ADbal's infidelity tests their young marriage. While the novel accurately portrays the conflicts of traditional husband-wife gender roles in the post-war 1950s, the abundance of internal, male-chauvinistic sexual monologues and thoughts can be off-putting. (Aug.)