“”Did you hear what I said? One mistake.” “One fucking enormous, stupid mistake,” Alex whispered. “Exactly. That’s all.” She pulled away so that she could tilt his chin to look at her. “Now get over it. Buck up and fix it, and if you can’t fix it, keep going anyway. It’s the only way to live.””
Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh Published: 2015 Pages: 381
We Never Asked For Wings is a novel about one family who are struggling through everyday life. Mum, Letty, and children Alex and Luna, are doing fine until Maria Elena (Letty’s mother) decides to go to Mexico with Letty’s father and leave them on their own. Up until that point, Letty had delegated their upbringing to Maria Elena, and now finds herself in an unfamiliar situation. She must raise her kids alone. Knowing Luna’s father will never come back, Letty often wonders if she will ever see Alex’s father again, the man she was so in love with, but knew the news of a son would ruin the life he had planned for himself. Taking everything one step at a time, Letty faces the reality of bringing up her children alone, while trying to earn enough money to give them a better life. She soon realises that it may all be too much, and constantly wonders if she will ever manage to do a good enough job to give Alex and Luna everything they need to succeed.
Firstly, the title. THE TITLE. Honestly, I think it’s one of my favourites ever, it implies so much about the weight thrust upon people who never asked for it, and who cannot cope under the pressure. Letty is the epitome of the title and, while I do have some minor qualms about her, she certainly acted as a good representation of those who feel they don’t know how to handle everything life has thrown their way. Not only this, but I think Letty was good proof that sometimes we let the fear of failure get in the way of us ever really trying. She was always too afraid of failing as a mother that she gave the responsibility to someone else, so she would never have to worry about not being enough. But in doing so, she rescinded her role as mother and therefore never felt its benefits.
My main qualm with the novel was the consistency with Letty’s competency; the novel begins with her worrying about looking after her children and her inability to carry out simple tasks such as cooking, but as the novel progresses, we see her perform a lot of skills not possible for someone who was apparently useless. I do like Letty, and I thought her character was perhaps one of the most relatable, but I did feel that the author couldn’t decide just how incapable at being a mother she really was.
On a positive note, I really enjoyed Alex’s relationship with Yesina. I think partly because it was nice to see Alex develop outside of his family, but also because the two of them, while maybe still blatantly being children, encouraged each other and looked after each other in a very mature way. It was wholesome, and beautiful, and reassuring. Also, little Luna was a lovely ray of sunshine and Diffenbaugh certainly wrote a convincing young child.
Overall, We Never Asked for Wings is a compelling and relatable narrative of an ordinary family, just doing their best. Diffenbaugh does a fantastic job of proving how the ordinary can become extraordinary and I think her writing is stunning and powerful – I would definitely pick up another book by her. I always enjoy novels about ordinary people and their ordinary lives, but this novel in particular does a splendid job of showing that it is the strength you find in other people, that can give you the strength to thrive.