A young girl must find a way to help her family survive in a desolate and impoverished Bolivian silver mining community in this eye-opening tale of resilience.
Twelve-year-old Ana wants nothing more than to escape the future set for her and her classmates in her small mining village. Boys her age are beginning to leave school to become silver miners and girls her age are destined to one day be the wives of miners. But when her often ill eleven-year-old brother is forced by their demanding father to start work in the mines, Ana gives up her dreams of school to volunteer in his place. The world of silver mining though is dark and dangerous and the men who work there don't want a girl in their way. Ana must find the courage to not only survive but save her family after the worst happens and a mining accident kills her father and leaves her brother missing.
In this gripping novel set in a Bolivian mining village in the Andes, Sullivan (The Bitter Side of Sweet) effectively portrays 12-year-old narrator Ana and the oppressive demands she faces. Ana and her sarcastic, sickly brother Daniel, 11, dream of education and opportunity beyond their desolate mountain of Cerro Rico. But their abusive father insists Daniel leave school to work in the mine alongside him, and tensions mount when Daniel falls ill and Ana goes to work in his stead. Angering Mami and Abuelita, Ana also incurs the wrath and suspicion of her fellow miners, who believe a female working in the mine will bring bad luck. When a section of the mine caves in, killing Ana's father while Daniel remains missing, the miners' superstitions seem proven. Sullivan sketches the stifling setting of the mine and town, skillfully crafting memorable characters and close relationships, especially between Ana and Daniel and Ana's best friend, Victor. The narrative, which occasionally leans too much on historical exposition, presents a largely negative view of Bolivia. But Sullivan approaches tough topics, including child labor, economic pressure, and repressive gender roles, from a resonant, believably young perspective, balancing Ana's precarious struggle to survive with hope. Ages 10–up.