Friday, December 9, 2011

She Had No Choice by Debra Burroughs: Book Spotlight & Review

As part of Pump Up Your Books new tour for She Had No Choice, I am showcasing author Debra Burroughs today here on the blog.  Debra had me at the cover with this book and I knew this was something I needed to read - and being based on a true story?  Absolutely right up my alley...

About the Book:

This poignant and gripping drama plays out from 1918 Mexico to 1960 California, and is full of love and heartbreak, prejudice and betrayal, lovers, friends and family. It is inspired by a true story.

Follow Sofía’s journey from a perilous midnight crossing into the U.S. as a child to a life of hard labor and bad relationships with the wrong men. Hungry for love, her first lover leads to a daughter, Eva, born out of wedlock. When he abandons her and their baby, another unsavory man is quick to come to her rescue.

Sofía’s difficult, yet inspiring life unfolds over the next twenty-five years, through a series of highs and lows, with her devoted, headstrong daughter by her side. As a young woman, Eva hopes to avoid the mistakes her mother made with men, but she is not always able to steer clear of them. When life becomes dangerous and unbearable for Sofía, will Eva and her beau be able to save her, or will Sofía have to save them?

About the Author:

Debra Burroughs grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area during a tumultuous time when the Civil Rights Movement was gearing up and racial tensions were mounting. Her parents moved the family to a more peaceful small town in the Central Valley of California.

Over the years, with a large Mexican family, she heard many stories about their history, particularly from her mother and grandmother. As she would relay these colorful and heart-wrenching family stories to her friends, many times she would hear them say, “You should really write a book about that.”

After continual encouragement and gentle prodding from her husband, she finally decided to do it. Now that their children are grown and gone, Debra has found a quiet place to write in their home in Boise, Idaho.

She Had No Choice is her second novel.

You can visit Debra Burroughs’ blog at 

Book Excerpt:

1918, Sonora, Mexico

Pancho Villa’s reign of terror had ended a few years earlier, but now there was a new enemy to battle – and he was merciless. The Death Angel had knocked repeatedly on the Ramirez family’s door over the past few weeks. Now, it was imperative for them to swiftly and stealthily find a way to move what was left of the family to a safer place before he came calling again.

Emilio and his wife, Juanita, hurriedly made plans to flee, covertly receiving word of the time and place for the dangerous escape. They were desperate to get their family out of Mexico quickly, but now all they could do was wait.

The appointed night arrived. Tied about Emilio and Juanita’s waists were pouches filled with as many belongings as they dared to take. She had planned all day, choosing this, discarding that, filling their pouches with dollars they had exchanged for their pesos, a comb, a couple handfuls of beef jerky and an old pocket watch.

This was going to be a perilous journey for the Ramirez family. Emilio and Juanita instructed their children once more, as they had for the past two evenings, that on this trip they needed to stay close together and keep silent. Noise of any kind could draw attention and put them in danger.

“But, Mama, why do we have to go?” asked little Sofía.

“We have no choice,” Mama replied, putting an arm around her. “One day you’ll understand.”
Their friend, Señor Vega, agreed to load them in the back of his horse-drawn wagon and take them to the pick-up point. The location was the old abandoned Castro ranch. It was once a working venture, until Pancho Villa’s men plundered it during the Mexican Revolution several years before. Now, it was nothing more than a few outbuildings with sagging roofs and jagged, broken windows where lonely tumbleweeds collected. That desolate ranch was where they would begin their journey.
Juanita heard the horses’ hooves and wagon wheels crunch the dry ground outside their house and knew Señor Vega had pulled up. Her back stiffened, and she drew in a quick breath. There was no turning back now.

“Emilio, niños. I hear Señor Vega outside. It’s time to go.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
As the Ramirez and Lopez families climbed out of the back of the truck, their driver told them to huddle around him and listen up. He kept his voice as low as possible, but he was still loud enough to be heard.

“Go out into the desert. Each of you take a hiding place behind the shrubs and rocks. Try to stay out of sight until you’re given the signal to run. When it’s time, I’ll let out a loud coyote howl. Then, you all just run for the fence as fast as you can. Don’t look back – just run!”

The families quickly dispersed and found their hiding places, waiting for the coyote howl. Papa took the two younger boys and hid behind a big rock, holding little Marcelo by the hand. Mama and the two girls hid behind a clump of cactus. The older son found his own bush near Papa to shield himself.
Before long, a loud shrill howl pierced the night air and carried out over the flat land. The race was on.

They all ran with every ounce of energy they possessed, crossing the dark Mexican desert with only the light of the crescent moon to guide them. As their shoes were clapping the dry desert floor, the pounding of their hearts was resonating in their ears. Diving in the dirt for the border fence, the hopeful clawed and crawled their way under it to freedom.

Papa could see Mama and little Sofía were struggling. Sofía’s little legs couldn’t keep up and stumbled a few times. He worried they might be left behind. So, in a firm voice, not more than a whisper, he urged them on. “Άndale! Άndale, muchachas!”

Mama firmly grasped Sofía’s hand and held on for dear life, nearly dragging her to freedom as she helped her run. Papa was frantically trying to help the rest of the children under the fence before diving under himself. He made it to the other side, picked up five-year-old Marcelo, and began running, pressing the older children to get moving. “Run, niños, run! Rápido, rápido!”

In desperation, Mama shoved Sofía under the fence ahead of her, yelling at her to run and not look back. Sofía scrambled to her feet and took off running in terror. Mama squeezed through and caught up with her. She grabbed Sofía by the hand and helped her run like she had never run before.

Simply clearing the fence was not enough. The U.S. border patrol could catch them and arrest them for illegally entering the country. It was important that they ran far enough into Arizona land to reach the trucks that were waiting to take them safely to their new lives.

They all reached the other side safe and sound, their hearts pounding in their chests, barely able to catch their breath. They looked around the muffled chaos to try and find their family members amidst the clouds of dust. Fortunately, they had all gotten through without being detected. There were no guards, no lights, and no dogs. It was eerily silent.

Lifting the crucifix she wore around her neck, Juanita pressed it to her lips and gave it a quick, gentle kiss. “Gracias a Diós. Gracias a Diós,” she whispered under her breath. 

My Thoughts:

First, let me say that THIS BOOK NEEDS A SEQUEL!!!  As a reader, I am dying to know what became of the characters and their story.  You are hanging on every detail towards the end of this book and it leaves you wanting more.

I am so appreciative of Debra Burroughs writing style - she definitely has a way with words and she writes with such compelling language that you feel as though you are right there on the pages with the characters experiencing their lives with them...and that isn't too common.

The third-person narrative that this book is written in could be a bit of an obstacle for some readers, but I didn't find it difficult.  I enjoyed the change of pace from other works I have read lately.  This is a generational story, and I felt like the author chose the perfect mode to tell it.

I would also add that I love books set in different time periods and this one definitely delivered in setting and atmosphere.  I appreciated that the author added a small flare of her own experience to the novel.  I also liked that it is based on real people, real events, and real characters - that is important in storytelling and oftentimes we don't find a better story to tell than something that actually happened.  It made the story that much more believable as well.

I HIGHLY recommend this book to my isn't often that I stumble across something that I like as much as I did this!

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