The adolescent Estrella labors with her farmworker family in the fields of California. Her mother, abandoned by Estrella's father years before, has married an older man who cares for the family but yearns for his home in Mexico. Enduring backbreaking work, the family lives the peripatetic lifestyle of migrant workers, including substandard housing, low wages and significant health risks.

The family extends itself to Alejo, whose only local family is a cousin close to his own age. Alejo and Estrella fall in love. Alejo is sprayed by a crop duster one day in the field, sickens, and is cared for by Estrella and her family. Eventually he becomes so sick they must take him to the community clinic and, later, to the hospital, presumably to die.


Told from Estrella's point of view, this novel chronicles her growth from an adolescent to adulthood through her relationship with Alejo and in her care of him as he sickens from the pesticide. This novel is a beautiful coming-of-age story, set within the harsh context of migrant life.

Alejo's story becomes an indictment of agribusiness policies that place profit ahead of human life. Describing Alejo's decline, the novel describes well the devastation of this kind of environmental disease, as well as its roots in social injustice. The encounter between Estrella's family and the indifferent nurse at the community clinic gets at the wide gulf that can exist between those relatively privileged ones who care for the sick and those who are poor and ailing. The book is fairly short and would be a useful one to use in a class on family, coming-of-age, and/or the politics of health.



Place Published

New York



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