Saturday, October 1, 2022

Review: Big Chicas Don't Cry

Big Chicas Don't Cry by Annette Chavez Macias was a Bad Decisions Book Club read. I read probably 20% over a Saturday afternoon and then decided to read "a few chapters" before bed Sunday night. When I had to work the next day. So of course I stayed up until 1AM and finished the book - and then of course was unable to fall asleep right away because my brain was too busy thinking about the book.

I. Regret. Nothing.

Cousins Mari, Erica, Selena and Gracie grew up together, spending a fair amount of time with their Abuela and Welita (what the girls call their great-grandmother). They're inseparable until Mari announces that her parents are getting a divorce. She's off to live with her mother leaving behind the Southern California Inland Valley area for...Whittier.  Which to pre-teen girls is like the ends of the Earth.  They promise to remain best cousins forever, but as inevitably happens as one grows up, and family ties get tangled, they drift apart.

Erica is a journalist for a local paper whose boyfriend has just broken up with her. That's what boyfriends do to Erica, they keep breaking up with her.  Already hiding her vulnerability behind a sarcastic shell, her mouth runs away from her (again) and she ends up making a bad first impression on her new boss. Her new boss who seems like he's "out to get her."

Selena calls herself "whitina." Her Spanish is abysmal and she doesn't care for traditional Mexican food, and yet she's the "token Latina" at the boutique advertising firm where she works and endures some pretty textbook microaggressions that still made my jaw drop.  She's also commitment-phobic, having been seriously burned by a college beau. She's currently carrying on a long-distance F-Buddy relationship with Nathan and against her better judgement, things seem to be heating up in more ways than just in the bedroom.

Gracie is the good girl now teaching elementary students at the Catholic school she attended as a child. At one point she thought she might become a nun. She's shy, she's reserved, and yes, she's still a virgin.  Then her former high school crush comes waltzing back into her life as the new temporary PE teacher and they're thrown together to plan the school's annual fundraising event. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

Finally there's Mari. Mari of the divorced parents whose teen years were financially unstable. This translated into an all-consuming need for security. She married a successful lawyer, spends her days moving her way up the society ladder, doing charity work, and taking care of a fabulous house - and naturally she's incredibly unhappy.  She's estranged from her cousins, she barely sees her family, her husband is constantly railroading her, and she's lost herself. Who is Mari? What does Mari want? Mari has no idea. I mean, all this is complicated enough and then her husband's law firm partner tells Mari he's in love with her.

This is very much women's fiction but Chavez Macias (who also writes romance as Sabrina Sol) cannot help herself so there are very strong romantic elements in this story.  However that isn't to say they all end "happily," so readers should adjust their expectations accordingly. What this book does do is keep it's women's fiction promise in that it is a very centered female story through the female gaze and all women are in "better places" at the end of the book then they were in the beginning of the book. Mission accomplished. 

What sucked me into this story was the way the author crafted her characters. I always know I loved a book when I close the last chapter and start to think of the characters as "real people." People I would like to know. People I would like to have coffee with.  All four of these cousins felt flesh and blood to me, like I could step out my front door tomorrow, go to the local coffee shop and potentially meet any one of them.  Their trials and their triumphs also felt very relatable, their bond as friends and family firmly rooted.  I loved each and every one of these women even as they may have been doing things that occasionally frustrated me.

However that isn't to say the book is perfect or there aren't challenging aspects to it.  Gracie's story in particular is one I initially loved but I found challenging by the halfway point. Talking about it more is HUGE HONKIN' SPOILER TERRITORY but I'll just say something happens to Gracie that happens to a lot of romance novel heroines and there's a lot to unpack with how her relationship with her high school crush plays out that the author mostly skirts around.  Was I angry? Yes. Did it make me love this book any less? No. If anything it made me want to shove the book in everybody's hands so I could talk to people about it in a book club style setting 😂

I'm honestly sh*t for writing reviews for books I loved and I'm staying on brand with this one - but y'all I loved this book. I loved this family Chavez Macias created, I loved these four cousins, and I did not want to let them go after the final chapter.  In fact, that's the mark of a good story to me. I didn't want to let them go and I don't have to. The Garcia Cousins are now living rent free in my brain and I'm imagining all sorts of ways their lives have played out after the end of the last chapter.  This was a triumph, heartwarming and heartbreaking all shoved in between the covers of the same book.  Congratulations Annette Chavez Macias and welcome to Wendy's autobuy list.

Final Grade = A

1 comment:

azteclady said...

Well, dammit, now I have regrets.

(I was offered an ARC of this, and my "ack, women's fiction, no thanks" brain took over--had I known who's behind the pseudonym, I'd have jumped at it even with the WF label. Live and learn.)

It's very reasonably priced, so the ol' kindle TBR it goes.

Thank you, Miz Wendy, for showing me the error of my prejudices.