When Bianca appears late one night at her brother's house in Santa Ana, she is barely conscious, though not alone. Jubilee, wrapped in a fuzzy pink romper, is buckled into a car seat. Told in alternating points of view, Jubilee reveals both the haunting power of our lived experiences and the surreal possibility of the present to heal the past.
Givhan, who, like her protagonist, is a poet, paints a surrealist canvas with vivid colors, even invoking images from artists such as Frida Kahlo and Remedios Varo. The richness of her language and her eye for nuance animate her depictions of both the bleak exterior landscape of California’s Imperial Valley and the bleak interior landscape of Bianca’s damaged soul. Through it all, Givhan has forged a compelling tension between psychological drama and romance that makes for a riveting read.
... what saves the book from melodrama (it’s well written, but heavy on emotion) is its through line: Bianca’s devotion to poetry. Like her idol, Sandra Cisneros, Bianca wants to be a voice for her people, the Mexican American working-class residents of Southern California ... Givhan manages to tell a story about Mexicali culture that, by focusing on one young woman’s hope, avoids cultural generalizations and tells, instead, a story of family growth and personal triumph.
This thought-provoking novel opens on Bianca, a young woman bleeding and in pain, driving through the night ... with everything she owns and a baby named Jubilee ... [Givhan] expertly plays her cast of characters against one another, using small, personal moments to create seismic emotional shifts all while slowly unraveling the truth about Bianca’s past and Jubilee’s place in her life.