Monday, August 29, 2022

MMGM review of The Other Side of the River by Alda P. Dobbs

Shannon Messenger was the first person to start off MMGM, and the tradition carries on with Always in the Middle.  (CLICK HERE FOR PAST MMGM POSTS)

The Other Side of the River by Alda P. Dobbs
Format:   Print-ARC
Publisher:  Sourcebooks for Young Readers
Number of pages:  368
Publishing:  September 6th, 2022
Source:  Author in exchange for an honest review

Opening Line: "Thousands of us-the poorest of the poor, the underdogs-choked the narrow bridge and begged for our lives to the gatekeepers, and despite the sun glistening over the smooth river below us, everyone, including me, believed it was the end of our lives."

In the year of 1913, Petra Luna and her family escaped the Federales in Mexico and made their way to safety in the United States.  Upon their arrival, Petra, her abuelita, and younger sister and brother were then placed into a refugee camp along the Texas/Mexico border.  Initially they were provided a place to stay, but now with smallpox and hunger raging through the camp, Petra was in need of a new plan.  With the Federales being pushed out of the village nearby in Mexico, the camp made plans to close.  Everyone who could work were offered jobs, and anyone left behind would need to return to Mexico.  Then Petra learns of a train headed to San Antonio and makes a bargain for the remaining seats, hoping that they'll be able to build a better life there.  

At twelve, almost thirteen, Petra was out looking for work as soon as they arrived in San Antonio and does land a job working for the Chili Queen, Dona Carmen.  She also finds them a place to stay in a rundown apartment.  Petra works hard at her new job, while her abuelita takes care of her siblings.  They even manage to save some money with the pecans that her Abuelita shells.  Then an unfortunate misunderstanding leads Petra to lose her job, and in dire need for an income, Petra turns to Sister Nora, a nun at the Wesley House for help and is offered a position as her assistant.  As Petra begins to spend more time with Sister Nora, they begin to learn of the commonalities that they share, like how Sister Nora and her sister escaped the potato famine of Ireland, and they also begin to develop a strong friendship.  The sister is also helpful in teaching Petra how to read and write, as well as opening up an opportunity for her to attend school for the first time.  The story has a nice resolution and sees a positive future for Petra and her family.   

The Other Side of the River is a continuation of the author's first book, Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna which was inspired by her great-grandmother's experience during the Mexican Revolution of 1913.  I think it's important to have read Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna first to have the full picture of Petra's story.  She's a really courageous girl and her determination and bravery to lead her family across the desert to safety in the United States is commendable and it's a story that shouldn't be skipped over.

This is the kind of historical fiction that will really resonate with the reader.  Even now when I think of how very young Petra was, twelve years old, who can imagine working at that age? All the hardships she had to endure.  Not to mention having three other people depend on your wages to sustain them.  She's a really remarkable girl, and such a hard worker, even during difficult circumstances.  While I was reading, her struggles feel like your struggles, and you want her to succeed.  For her dreams of being able to read and write to come true.  It really is a step back in time and a reflection of one girl's resilience.  A really beautiful series and I enjoyed being immersed in Petra's new life in San Antonio.  I also really enjoyed the authors note and learning of how the authors experiences growing up in Texas were incorporated into the story as well as the origins for the school mentioned.    Favorite lines "There is great power in the written word..."  "Spoken words are like old winter leaves-they're easily spun, blown away, and forgotten."

A huge thank you to Alda Dobbs for the review copy in exchange for an honest review.               


  1. Sounds like a compelling and worthwhile story. Might make a perfect companion to Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan, another MG story about refugees. I've added your title to my future read list. Thanks for being a part of MMGM this week.

  2. Petra sounds an amazing character, and the story sounds great. Thanks for the review!

  3. I do love historical fiction. This sounds like a really good book. I will put it on my list. Thanks for the post.

  4. I have an ARC, and it's next on my list to read. Thanks for getting me even more excited to read t.