If I Bring You Roses
Born into a poor family in a small Puerto Rican village, Felicidad Hidalgo has few expectations for her future. When her mother suffers from a mental breakdown and climbs, naked, onto the roof of the family’s home, Felicidad takes over the management of the family’s household. When an opportunity arises for Felicidad to move to the city and work in her aunt’s bakery, her father, struggling to make ends meet, agrees. Though Felicidad is family, she’s treated as the country cousin and relegated to a life of near servitude and frequent mockery for her lack of refinement. Nevertheless, she works tirelessly and becomes close friends with her young cousin while entertaining an active fantasy life where she is loved by a man she calls her Spirit Prince.
Aníbal Acevedo left Puerto Rico for a better life in Chicago but is lured back for a family visit. Aníbal’s greatest weakness is women – he is seductive and sensual, but ultimately noncommittal. His mother wants him married to a nice Puerto Rican girl, and she has her sights set on Felicidad. What begins as a joke to Aníbal quickly becomes the serious pursuit of a woman who could be his equal. “The Hidalgo girl,” as he dismissively calls her before they meet, would actually make a fine wife. After a brief courtship, the two marry and return to Chicago, but neither is ready for the challenges and struggles of their relationship. Culture shock sets in for Felicidad, and Aníbal falls back on his womanizing ways.
If I Bring You Roses is an engaging novel about the immigrant experience, told from a perspective not often seen in American fiction. Felicidad is an admirably strong heroine who faces the challenges of her life with dignity, and Aníbal is a flawed romantic hero, a midcentury rake in need of reform. The dual settings of Puerto Rico and Chicago are beautifully drawn. Fans of women’s fiction will enjoy Felicidad’s journey to find the happiness that she deserves.