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A Journey for Three Puerto Rican Sisters - an Editorial Review of "The Three Marias"

Book Blurb:

Puerto Rico, 1895. Three sisters are embroiled in rebellion, betrayal and lost love. A secret threatens their bond when they are caught in a web of murder during the Spanish American War. After the massive hurricane of 1899 the three Marias are faced with the difficult choice to stay and rebuild, or leave their home and their land.

Author Bio:

Editorial Review:

I became a prisoner of time. With each breath I took I prayed to reverse the minutes, hours that pained me, or move forward and free me from my grief. Each morning I rose and walked to the kitchen to see the calendar that hung on the wall, and was reminded that for us, it was forever July 1895.

After the small uprising in 1868 called the Grito de Lares in Puerto Rico, many still sought independence for the island from Spain's grip. This story tells the tale of three sisters, the three Marias, who come of age in the midst of the divisive factions. All dream of a better life, yet after a tragedy strikes their family brought on by bandits in their village, they watch their father fall into depression and despair, gambling his life away and sinking their family deeper into poverty.

Dread replaced optimism in the New Year 1896. It was another reminder that Mama would never grow old. I will not make her a grandmother, or learn another thing from her. The start of the new year brought sorrow, and the refusal of time to stand still was especially twisted and cruel.

A nearby neighbor and long-time friend, Dino, seems to come to the rescue and offers to clear their father's debt if he might take Martina's hand in marriage. For so long she has pined after a young man whose ties to the military and thus, his ties to Spain, make him an unsuitable match in her father's eyes. And so, 'the die is cast' and she marries Dino, which in turn ensures a hopeful future for her family as her father is able to maintain their home plus a portion of the coffee-producing land which will provide adequately for them all. With her marriage, she takes her two sisters, Celia and Fina, to her home to protect them from any more arranged marriages. It is there that Fina meets Jorge, and they fall in love... but with the rising political tension bubbling across Puerto Rico, the conflicts inevitably affect everyone.

Days seemed to drag, but the calendar flew by. It was already July 1898. It had been five months since the Spanish soldiers stormed Dino Cesari's hacienda, attacked my sisters and tortured Dino's servant. Nearly half a year since Jorge escaped to Cuba and Dino went missing. His family presumed he'd been killed by the soldiers that night. I could not reveal the truth of what really happened to Dino that night... It was a predicament I could not escape. A secret I was finding impossible to live with.

With another uprising in the works, another tragedy strikes, one of Fina's making - an accident which sweeps away her innocence and brings possible contentions between her and her sister, Martina; that is, if her sister ever finds out. The blows hammer the family, one after another, with more bandits bringing devastation to Celia after she is abandoned by the one person who should have protected her, as well as the raging winds of a hurricane which wipes out much of the island.

With nothing left to live for and hope drained from the island, and with Fina's secret revealed, Martina makes the life-changing decision to leave Puerto Rico for a new opportunity and life on the island of Hawaii, with Celia following soon after suffering another loss. Fina is left alone, still awaiting the day Jorge will read her letters and return to her. When more secrets are revealed, and Fina enacts revenge for Celia's losses, she makes her own life-altering decision to leave the island and rejoin her sisters in Hawaii.

My days grew long and I felt in my body that change was coming. I hated change, and prayed to God for help. The answer came quickly.

While this story begins with the feel of a young adult novel, the more it progresses and the story unfolds, the tragedies and devastation, as well as some of the violent events which occur against the women, bring it more in line with adult reading. However, the flow of the narration is very easy to read, with short chapters, and succinct paragraphs and dialogue, albeit with some structural issues such as passive voice sprinkled throughout. While some of the character development did not quite reach the depth it might have, you do, for the most part, get a sense of who these people are and you come to admire their ability to survive some quite horrific situations. This connects them to the reader in a very human way. The historical aspects are well-done, providing enough insight into the political chaos between Spain and the United States in the late 1800s so as to pique the curiosity of the reader into delving more into Puerto Rican history. Overall, this is a good first-read for anyone wishing to dip their toe into the historical fiction genre without being overwhelmed with the normally heavy wordage and settings of most historical novels.


“The Three Marias” by Donna Darling receives 3.5 stars from The Historical Fiction Company


Posted by permission of the author.


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