The New York Times Book Review has praised Alvarez's fiction as "powerful...beautifully captures the threshold experience of the new immigrant where the past is not yet a memory and the future remains an anxious dream." These same qualities characterize her poetry - from the "Making Up the Past" poems, which explore a life of exile as lived by a young girl, to "The Joe Poems," a series of wonderfully sensual and funny love poems celebrating a middle-aged romance. The collection culminates in the twenty-one-part title poem about the poet's return to her native Dominican Republic and the internal conflict and ultimate affirmation that journey occasioned. Bold innovation and invention, the interplay of sound, sense, and the rhythm of two languages, all characterize Julia Alvarez's art in transforming precious memory into unforgettable poetry.
Widely known for her novels, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies, Latina author Alvarez claims her authority as a poet with this collection. Tracing a lyrical journey through the landscape of immigrant life, these direct, reflective and often sensuous poems are grouped into five sections which, like the points of a star, indicate a circle. Alvarez begins with ``Bilingual Sestina,'' a meditation on leaving her native Dominican Republic for an alien land and strange language. She ends with the title poem ``The Other Side/El Otro Lado,'' a long, multipart narrative recounting her return to her homeland as a woman transformed-translated-by the years she has lived in America from native to guest. The speaker may claim ``There is nothing left to cry for,/ nothing left but the story/ of our family's grand adventure/ from one language to another,'' but this poetry resonates precisely because that story embodies larger questions about self-identity. A meticulous examination of self-evolution, Alvarez's assured collection reveals that change can take us across borders so slowly that only on reaching the other side can we see the distances we've come. (June)