In J.L. Torres‘ novel, The Accidental Native, Rennie, a Nuyorican, faces many personal challenges as he unexpectedly loses his parents and ends up in his native land of Puerto Rico.
This new life of his brings a roller-coaster of emotions as he attempts to adjust to living there. After their funeral, he is approached by his true biological mother, who reveals herself to him for the first time. Rennie’s new realization that his true mother’s identity was concealed up until now complicates his life all the more. He is always in conflict with accepting her as his mother.
From beginning to end, Torres keeps you guessing about Rennie’s past, present, and future. This aspect of the book keeps your interest as the mystery of his past unfolds and he must face a new culture, and meet the challenges of a new job and new relationships from a boss who dislikes him to an older girlfriend who wants commitment he is unsure of.
When the university he teaches at is suspected to be the culprit behind radioactive waste that is causing cancer in his co-workers, Rennie becomes personally involved when his girlfriend gets cancer and his mother’s law firm takes legal action against the university. Rennie is forced to choose sides, risk losing his job, and more.
I gained a new education about Puerto Ricans and their feelings towards the U.S. References to Puerto Rican history and culture may lose the average reader, but benefit those who have a personal connection to this country. It did help me to feel like I was immersed in the culture. The use of profanity and the Spanish language may narrow Torres’s audience, although used at a minimum.
I also had a difficult time imagining what Rennie looked like. I was left guessing his age and overall physical features. In the beginning, it was hard to know where the story was taking me with so much going on. But wanting to know what was going to happen to him and to know the truth about his past compelled me to keep reading.
Overall it is a good story, and I would especially recommend it to Nuyoricans.