Review of Finding Amor by Allison K. Garcia

Allison is a Latin author I had the privilege to meet at FAB’s Fall FB Party! I was intrigued by the idea of her story, and knew I needed—though not necessarily wanted—to apply it to my life.

Let’s get started!

About the Book

Finding Amor cover by Allison K. Garcia,  purchase at Amazon  this longer read in paperback (through my affiliate link). Also available in ebook.

Finding Amor cover by Allison K. Garcia, purchase at Amazon this longer read in paperback (through my affiliate link). Also available in ebook.

Title: Finding Amor

Author: Allison K. Garcia

Genre: Latino Christian Fiction

Release date: September 8, 2018

In a world filled with hate, how can you know what love is?

Escaping a violent and abusive environment, eight-year-old Emanuel Martinez attempts to cross through three countries to be with his mother, Ana, whom he hasn’t seen since he was a baby. When la migra catches him at the border and he’s thrown into an immigration center, his dreams for being a real family start to disappear.

Vowing never to be like her own mother who abandoned her and never looked back, Ana has worked for six years to get her son to the United States, Now Ana has to rely on her distant mother and her alcoholic boyfriend, Carlos, to finally get her son to her side so they can build a life together.

When Lauren Barrett agrees to help with the afterschool program, she soon realizes she’s bitten off more than she can chew. Growing up in an unsupportive home has made her insecure and vulnerable, plus suffering through years of infertility hasn’t helped matters. Yet she longs to do something meaningful with her life and wonders when that opportunity will come along. When a special young boy named Emanuel enters her life, he turns her worldview on its head.

As their lives intersect, will they help each other understand what family and love and home really mean?

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About the Author

Allison K. Garcia, author of Latin sensitivity.

Allison K. Garcia, author of Latin sensitivity.

Allison K. Garcia is a Licensed Professional Counselor, but she has wanted to be a writer ever since she could hold a pencil. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Shenandoah Valley Writers, Virginia Writers Club, and is Municipal Liaison for Shenandoah Valley NaNoWriMo.

Allison’s short story, “At Heart,” was published in the Winter 2013 edition of From the Depths literary magazine, along with her flash fiction. Her work, “You Shall Receive,” was published in GrayHaven Comics’s 2014 All Women’s anthology. Winning an honorary mention in the ACFW Virginia 2015 short story contest, “Just Another Navidad” was published in A bit of Christmas. Allison’s book, Vivir el Dream, published May 2017, has won several prestigious awards: 2016 ACFW Genesis Contest Finalist, 2018 Eric J. Hoffer Montaigne Medal Finalist, Honorary Mention in the 2018 Eric. J. Hoffer Awards E-book category, and 2018 IAN Book of the Year Awards Finalist in the Christian/Relgious Fiction category. Her highly-anticipated novel, Finding Amor, was released in September 2018.

Latina at heart, Allison has been featured in local newspapers for her connections in the Latino community in Harrisonburg, Virginia. A member of cultural competency committees for work and a participant in several pro-immigrant rallies and other events in her region, she also sings on the worship team and enjoys get-togethers with the hermanos in her church. With the help of her husband, Julio, and their son, Miguel, she has been able to nurture her love for the Latino people.

Guest Post from Allison

It’s All About Love: Loving God and Loving Your Neighbor

Finding Amor is the first part of a larger series, Buscando Home, about a family from El Salvador broken through decades of war, violence, and distance. Finding Amor is the first glimpse into their world – why they are broken, some of what they’ve gone through, and how far they have to go in order to heal and find peace and home together. Finding Amor is about finding the love of family, God, and within ourselves. It also calls people to loving both God and their neighbors, the two main tenants of Christianity.

Since 2012, God has been calling me to write Latino Christian fiction. He led me to write my multi-awarding winning debut novel, Vivir el Dream, in 2012 and then in 2014, He led me to write Finding Amor.

Finding Amor was by a couple things in 2014. I was watching the news and saw a video of little kids on a bus near an immigration detention center. Outside the bus angry Americans were protesting, yelling at them and carrying signs. It broke my heart. I thought about how scary it must be for those small children to be surrounded by an angry mob after what was surely a traumatic border crossing. And I began to think how most likely some of those people yelling angrily at the children were also proclaiming to be Christians (as I had heard echoed sentiments in our community). I wanted to change the narrative. This is the first scene of my book. I wanted to give an insider perspective on how scary this is to experience as a child.

The other thing that inspired my book was a true story from my church about how a little boy in the afterschool program came to Christ and subsequently brought many of the other little kids to salvation as well. That touched my heart, and from there my main character, Emanuel, was born.

My main goals for writing Latino Christian fiction are to have Latinos represented in Christian fiction, share God’s word, and show authentic stories of undocumented immigrants so that people can open their hearts and minds and grow in compassion and love and understanding.

In showing real stories and explaining the whys and showing the human side to immigration, my hope is that people who have negative views towards immigrants will understand more and realize that we are called to love our neighbors, no matter what their documentation status or skin color or language, etc.

I purposefully put a very diverse group of people in the book, because it represents America and also in Revelations is shows Heaven as a place where “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” people are praising God. Also there are important verses that remind us that we cannot love God if we do not love our neighbor.

We cannot love God without loving our neighbor anymore than we can love our neighbor without loving God. This is another theme that is represented in Lauren’s story. Seeing her neighbors in a new light and seeing the love they show her, helps her grow to love others and herself more. So, for me, the trauma and drama and debates in the U.S. boil down to a lack of love.

My hope as a writer is that Finding Amor reminds them that everyone has a story. We often judge a book by its cover and as Christians, that’s not okay. We are called to love everyone, unconditionally. I hope that sticks with them.

The Finding Amor blog tour with  Celebrate Lit .

The Finding Amor blog tour with Celebrate Lit.

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Allison is giving away a grand prize of gift basket that includes a copy of The Ultimate Authorship Planner, 4 Christian novels, chocolate, and other surprise items!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/db10/finding-amor-celebration-tour-giveaway

Lila’s Opinions:

I requested this book to review not because I thought I would love it, but because I knew I needed it. I knew I had been lacking in sympathy for immigrants, especially from Mexico. I went into this book knowing my toes would be stepped on. And they were.

I think one reason I had a hard time really getting into it at first was that there were too many characters to keep straight at the beginning. I personally would have preferred an entire chapter about each character at first to ground us in their voice, their desires, their backstory, and how they relate to the characters around them. With each chapter having three or four sections, each about a separate character and their thread of what comes together as one overarching tapestry (hopefully), I had a hard time keeping their names straight and especially caring for them. I connected with Emmanuel and Ana right away. And their story seems to be the focal one. I didn't want to get into Carlos's head at all. If he wasn't going to chance, then I really didn't want to understand his thought processes.

I must mention the interesting use of the Spanish language with English footnotes to translate. While keeping it realistic as to when the Spanish speakers would need or want to use Spanish, it bogged the story down for me and reminded me of Spanish class in high school. I began to start thinking about conjugations and grammar, and the footnotes became a mini-Spanish lesson, pulling me out of the story.

I also felt all the details about the different foods and the differences in lifestyles between the “poor” Latinos and the “rich” white family. I felt like it was pointedly trying to guilt anybody who had more than a broken down truck, a trailer, and problems with roaches. I'm a white woman, and I still do live in a trailer, and when I lived in Florida, I had problems with roaches, too. I still have problems with ants and spiders. I've never owned a new car in my life. And having nicer things isn't in itself a sin. I just felt overall that it became a little preachy and gave the impression of looking down on most white people, which is not the intention of the author, I'm sure.

Another thing that concerns me is the length. When signing up to review, I didn't see how many pages it had listed. It's quite thick at 375 pages with medium font. At the end of each chapter, I keep wondering if all of this is necessary to tell the story. I know the characters need to be established. But it almost feels like it could have been separated into two books, one about Ana, Emmanuel, Carlos, and Sandra, and the other about Lauren and her circle. I see that this is continued in another book in the series, and I'm wondering if after all this time, I may still not get a satisfying ending. If I hadn't promised to review it, I might have given up already.

Nearing the end, one of the things that threw me off was how many little scenes were in each chapter, and most of those scenes were all told from different perspectives. This is what I felt was happening:

“If you have multiple POVs, your best bet is to use one POV per scene. This will also help tighten all the other elements in that scene. Just be careful that you don't have too many scenes per chapter--because then that can get confusing too and almost behave like head hopping because there is so much happening.” - Kate Johnson, Team Writer.

There are spiritual truths to be gleaned, like Emanuel's conversion and Lauren's confidence to say no, along with the most obvious of not judging people of other ethnicity than you.

Favorite quote:

“Things that hadn't bothered her, or perhaps that she'd gotten used to before her son arrived, now felt shameful and toxic, and the fact that none of it seemed to be throwing Emanuel for a loop somehow felt worse.” (p.200)

(I received this book for free. The decision to write a review, as well as the opinions expressed in it, are all my own. I was not compensated for this review.)