In 1913, thousands of Mexicans, including 12-year-old Petra Luna, her six-year-old sister, one-year-old brother, and her grandmother cross the Rio Grande into Texas to escape the violent civil war in Mexico. They stay in an overcrowded refugee camp with little food and a smallpox outbreak. When the revolutionists take back the Mexican border town, the refugees are given the option to go back to Mexico or get a job in the United States.
Petra is torn between a brighter future in America where she might get to learn to read, or going back to their destroyed village in hopes of reuniting with her father. They decide to stay in America. Her grandmother is crippled with arthritis and can do little more than watch baby Luisito. It’s up to Petra to support the family, but being a girl, and a barefoot one at that, finding work isn’t easy. A charity group gives Petra her first pair of shoes which allows her to get a job working in restaurants.
For a while, she’s making enough money to pay the rent and buy food, but she gets replaced by a 14-year-old boy. Their meagre savings dwindle while Petra tries to find work. Petra meets Sister Nora, an Irish nun with bright blue eyes, and a kind heart. Sister Nora hires Petra to help her with the cooking and cleaning in the Wesley House. The nun also begins teaching Petra to read and speak English.
This is the second book featuring Petra. In the first, The Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna, her family travels across Mexico fleeing the murderous Federales army. This sequel is set in San Antonio in 1913 and gives the reader a vivid picture of the hardships faced by immigrants in a way that seems timeless and relevant.
Petra is one of the strongest, young characters that I’ve encountered, and I was excited to get to read a continuation of her story. Her fierce dedication to care for her family and her unending determination to become educated is inspiring. I highly recommend The Other Side of the River to readers ten and up and, this book’s excellent pacing would make it a wonderful classroom read-aloud. Even though this is a sequel, it’s not necessary to read the first book to enjoy this one.
Releasing September 6, 2022! PRE-ORDER HERE!