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All booksContemporary fictionWe Never Asked for Wings
We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Contemporary fiction

We Never Asked for Wings

by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Quick take

Dramatic, nuanced and populated with characters who deserve your attention, Wings is a delightful meditation on the sorrows and consolations of family and the difficulty of outrunning the past.

Why I love it

Kim Hubbard
People Magazine

What is it that makes us say "yes" as we start a new novel? Yes, I will give myself over to this imaginary world instead of abandoning it for the next book on my bedside stack? The language must appeal, the plot must invite, but for me the key is feeling that I'm in good hands: I need to trust the author not to veer into implausibility or bore me to tears. "This is your author speaking, we've reached cruising altitude and I would never let you crash."

We Never Asked for Wings delivers that "sit-back-and-enjoy" sensation right from the start — even as its main character, Letty, is introduced as someone who definitely shouldn't be in the driver's seat. The struggling single mom is headed for Mexico, a water bottle filled with tequila riding shotgun as she speeds south. Her parents, Maria Elena and Enrique, have been raising Letty's kids in the apartment they all share in rundown projects outside San Francisco, while Letty drinks and works in a bar. But now the parents have returned to their native village, and Letty's sure she can't make it without them. We're pretty sure, too: she's left Alex, 14, and Luna, 6, all alone as she makes this journey, abandoning them with a hastily-scribbled note.

What follows is a thoroughly engrossing coming-of-age tale. Unable to convince her parents to come back to California with her, Letty returns home alone to her kids and finally learns how to be a mom. She finagles Alex and Luna into better schools and begins to move up in the world, but the mistakes she's made exact a lasting toll.

Dramatic, nuanced and populated with characters who deserve your attention, Wings is a delightful meditation on the sorrows and consolations of family and the difficulty of outrunning the past. From the first sentence, I trusted Vanessa Diffenbaugh wholly — with her narrative and with my time. She is a capable pilot indeed.

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