The Ones Who Don't Stay, Paola Mendoza's first novel is a beautiful coming of age story filled with melodic prose, elegant metaphors and a bounty of breathtaking corners of wisdom.
In The Ones Who Don't Stay Paola brings to life a series of women and imparts each one with depth and sensibility. The women in this book come alive slowly. Each new character reveals itself right when you wonder about their past.
One of them is Andrea, the book's protagonist, who gives the reader her heart as she tells us her shortcomings, judgments and triumphs.
Andrea's voyage is about rediscovering her family, reconciling with her ancestral lineage and herself. Ultimately, her journey is about realizing that she is loved beyond measure and that her life is inextricably connected to her beloved motherland of Colombia.
Therein lies the crux of tears, regrets, inspiration, gratitude, acceptance, embrace and maturity.
One of the book's strengths is that while it focuses entirely on one family, it manages to capture the idiosyncrasy of the Latin American matriarchy with loving exactitude.
As the story unfolded I was comforted by a sense of connectedness to the larger landscape of the Central, Caribbean and Southern American hemisphere. The women of The Ones Who Don't Stay are all around us.
Paola achieves drawing you into the Azcárate family saga with tenderness and honesty.
The magic of the title, The Ones Who Don't Stay, is that yes the book is about the ones that leave but it is also and in equal amounts, about the ones that stay.
The moment of this recognition occurs in the closing chapter. The subtlety of the narrative is truly moving. It happens so quickly that you just might miss it if you glide through the text.
I recommend you don't. I recommend you read it, especially if you have left your land. Allow it to come to you. You might find solace and inspiration to continue of the journey that never ends, the one of growing up.
The Ones Who Don't Stay is also available in Spanish under the title, Los Que No Se Quedan, with a beautiful translation by Mariajosé Salcedo.