Title: Taking Flight
Writer: JT Torres
Publishing House: Fairlight Books
Date of Publication: July 8th 2021
Rating: 5 stars
‘’Νana appeared by my bed, staring at me with vacant eyes that I felt responsible for filling. The pre-dawn moonlight sliced by the blinds iced her skin a soft blue.’’
A young boy has the unfortunate ‘’luck’’ to be born in a family that has named him ‘’The Accident’’. Son to an indifferent mother and a cruel father – both undeserving to be called ‘’parents – his only escape is his grandmother’s house. Her love and her stories give him the necessary means to survive, to gain strength and confidence. Because the life that lies ahead of him seems a cruel, lonely place. When your parents are unwilling to protect you, the culture of your ancestors and the love of a wise woman are you only, invaluable shelters.
‘’ ‘If you aren’t honest with yourself’, she said, ‘you’ll never transform into a nightingale. Deception is too heavy. Carry it and you’ll never fly.’’
JT Torres creates a poetic, sensitive and demanding tale of a bright, bookish child whom Fate dictated to fall into the hands of unbelievably cruel (to the point of being truly evil) parents. In an almost suffocating environment of swamps and still pine trees, in a city that is all external glamour and internal misery, estrangement and division, Tito resorts to Hamlet’s feigned madness in order to find a few scraps of tenderness, to feel loved. And the bitter thing is that this kind of parenthood actually exists. As a teacher, I’ve met a few of them…His grandma shows him that illusion can make him free as a bird. And while past notes left from the grandfather he never knew start appearing and his grandmother begins an unfair fight against dementia, Tito becomes a survivor working his own magic.
From Cuba to Miami, from Orlando to Alaska, from ghosts and visions to the practice of the Santería, from Plato’s Cave to tales of Yarubaba, from the illusion of a revolution that became a worse regime than the one it brought down, this is a tale about love, heritage, identity, resilience and hope, told with tenderness, healthy doses of humour, sensitivity and respect.
‘’When she ran out of happy memories, she forgot how to be happy. And when she ran out of funny memories, she forgot how to laugh. It wasn’t long before everything that gave her pain vanished for good. And when that time came, when the old woman had nothing left of herself to remember, she, too, disappeared.’’
Many thanks to Fairlight Books and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.