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This Side of Providence

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  151 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
“It is a book of such power that it is as if a completely new layer of the American experience has been exposed to our view...not one line is wasted and every single word rings true.”
Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Color Purple

Arcelia Perez fled Puerto Rico to escape a failed marriage and a history of abuse, but instead of finding her piece of the Amer
Paperback, 396 pages
Published March 29th 2016 by Prospect Park Books
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Community Reviews

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Rating details
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Aj Sterkel
Dec 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult
This review might be a little different from my normal reviews because I usually stay far away from stories about drug addicts. I’ve put up with more than enough crap from addicts in my real life. I don’t need fictional drug addicts in my world, too. I also have a hard time being impartial about addiction books. Sometimes the plots and characters get too close to my real life, and then I start loathing the book for bizarre reasons that actually have nothing to do with the book. So, usually it’s ...more
Kim DeNero
May 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I rarely write reviews, but this book was so powerful that I had to fight back tears multiple times. I rooted for every one of the narrators, each written with a unique and distinctive voice. Harper does a skilled job at letting this story unfold, with small scenes that stay with you. This isn't just a family drama; there's also astute commentary on how the poor receive substandard service in every realm of life -- from drug addiction treatment to decent grocery stores, from quality schools (alt ...more
Jun 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Exceptional portrayal of poverty, single parenthood and addiction all set in PVD. The author really captured life in and around Atlantic mills. I could not put it down and I was sad when I finished. A great book to own!!!
Betsy Kipnis
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Providence, Rhode Island, an underclass community populated with the working poor, aid-dependent folks, drug dealers and addicts... Citizens get by on what they can and public aid pays the rest. Schools are underserved and parks are replaced by potholes filled with sand where children act out their stories amid traffic. This is the story of Arcelia Luna Perez and her struggle to ditch her drug habit and keep her children. Using a cast of rotating first person narrators, readers endure their stru ...more
Kate Corcoran
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There are many good reviews of this book so read them for details. All I want to say is that it's the best book I've read in a long time. The writing is wonderful. Loved the different voices. I grew to care about all of them.
May 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I got this book in exchange for an honest review through the Library Thing program. It's been a long time since I cried reading a book -- and if I had let myself, I might have just sobbed. I had to take a few breaks also, the book is pretty desperate and dark. This is a story of Arcelia, a Puerto Rican immigrant who is a heroin addict and also the mom of three kids. The story is told in first person from the viewpoint of several different characters, which some people don't like, but I had no pr ...more
Ed Boland
Aug 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An extraordinary novel. There were passages where I gasped out loud because of the beauty of its writing and the honesty of its story. Its characters, so human, flawed and real, come together in a beautifully woven arc. Harper’s fiction gives voice to stories and characters that are too often overlooked in our society. It is a book that I won’t soon forget.
Dec 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
After reading Brass Ankle Blues, I was excited to pick up a copy of Rachel Harper's second book, This Side of Providence. It is a compelling, powerful story. One of the best books I've read all year.
J.J. Gesher
Aug 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Well-drawn characters from the wrong side of the tracks.
Compelling plot and strong sense of place.
Engaging style. Liked how the voices told their own stories but kept overall plot moving forward.
Kelli Harmon
Nov 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Character-driven, thought-provoking, heartbreaking and triumphant, all at once.
Jul 06, 2016 rated it liked it
The story of This Side of Providence is told as a blend of voices, all so concerned with the people around them that they forget to save some concern (and time, and love) for themselves; they reach out to help each other with one hand while shoving away help more forcefully with the other. Despite these outwardly-directed concerns, though, there's a general sense of helplessness, of recognizing the other characters' needs for help but being unable to provide it themselves, mostly by projecting t ...more
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
We read the same moment in time, but read it from five different points of view from the poeple involved. Everyone's story is poetic and heartfelt. They each have their own wisdom and life-lessons that is acquired as the story progresses. Cristo, who could be said to be the main character, goes from being a young boy to a young man right before our eyes. He grows up the hard way, and we are there to witness it. And it's sad but also uplifting and hopeful. As you navigate through the different vo ...more
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
How did Rachel Harper manage to authentically voice a 10 year old boy, his younger sister, their teacher, their drug addicted mother, AND Snowman (a character unlike any I've met before)?
I fell in love with them all. You probably will too. But don't go into it thinking it'll be an easy read...the writing and characters will draw you in, but there is nothing easy about this book. Gritty, raw and emotional, the best advice I can give (after "read it" of course) is please don't finish it in public
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Actually 4 1/2 stars. Fascinating, wonderfully-drawn characters. The world these characters inhabit is a place I know nothing about. Ms. Harper made it all perfectly, achingly believable. I wonder what sort of experiences she has lived through in order to create each of these characters in such a realistic way.
Susan Barton
May 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: alcoholism
Arcelia Perez flees Puerto Rico to escape an abusive husband. She takes her small daughter Luz, but leaves her son Cristo behind when she boards a plane to NYC. Somewhere along the way, she decides that taking drugs is the way to forget a painful and abusive past. Will she overcome her drug addiction or will it finally consumer her?

Oh boy, did I have issues with this book. On one hand, it’s a beautifully written, heartfelt fictional account of a woman’s struggle with her inner demons and the cas
Apr 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review was originally posted on hopeforbest Oh lord, how to start. This Side of Providence is one of those reads that transports you into the story, holds on tight and then throws you out at the end a changed reader. This is one of those rare books that can meld emotion into a world of turmoil. The path of a mother, who at her core, only wants to do the best for her children but is sidetracked by her addiction is powerful. Arcelia came to Providence for the chance to create a new life ...more
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book resonated with me. I loved the multiple points of view and only disliked the letter in Spanish (as I cannot read Spanish). It is a beautiful story of the cost of addiction paid by the addict and the family of the addict. Bonus that I knew all the landmarks!
Jun 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really wanted to give this book 5 stars (oh how I wish there were half-stars!). I couldn't put the book down, just like the review in the Providence Journal promised. But, to be truly critical, the children were just a little too wise for their years. I realize that kids probably grow up faster in an adverse environment, yet these kids seemed too insightful. The author did a great job of capturing the grittier side of Olneyville and Manton Ave.
Kristi Hanson
Apr 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a powerful, powerful novel. The characters are unforgettable, their struggle, their humanity, their courage will stay with you long after you've left them. It is a book that will not leave you unchanged. It's eye opening, heartbreaking, hopeful, and courageous. Written through the pov of multiple narrators in beautiful prose, this story has me thinking about what we know and what we don't about human struggle.
Apr 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book! Beautifully written; with characters who come alive and who are unforgettable. My favorite kind of book: one that enables the reader to step for a time into the shoes of another; a book that gives the reader the gift of empathy. Empathy is probably the best tool there is to give us the will to make the world a kinder place.
Lisa Anderson
Nov 24, 2016 rated it liked it
The unforgettable characters overcame the weak structure of the story and some unrealistic elements But maybe some things that I found awkward and impossible, thus distracting (the children's dialogue) were intentional... It was painful to read and yet, living now in Providence, I have wondered if I might run into any one of the characters, wondered if they had been here, or here.
Danielle Mootz
Mar 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Rachel Harper wrote This Side of Providence in such a tragic voice I had to remind myself it wasn't a memoir. Told from all the characters perspectives she connects you to the story of one family's breakdown to the rise of a new one. Very engaging.
May 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Rachel Harper’s This Side of Providence redefines the bueno, the malo and the verdad of what it is to be family while relating the story of a modern immigrant and her first generation of children in a style William Faulkner would admire.
Sarah White
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. This a sad story that is heavy with hard, realistic issues that one family faces due to immigration, poverty, and drugs. The narrative of each character is perfectly developed and extremely well-written. Definitely five stars.
Jun 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
I would give this five stars, but I don't because it jumped around a lot between all the characters. It was very difficult to follow over the course of the story. But super well-written and very enjoyable.
Miranda Moberg Diaz
Insightful look into issues like immigration, drug use, poverty and abuse told from multiple perspectives in a Puerto Rican family and one special teacher. Tough but valuable read to understand the uphill battles of some of these families.
Margaret Goodlin
Dec 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
I liked this book. It is very hard to read, emotionally. The mother is a drug addict who lands in prison for 6 months. Three kids, the oldest 11 years old, are left on their own--- with no money or food, scrabbling out the days. No safety net there. Engrossing book.
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
Raw. Rich. Riveting. This is one of the best books I have ever read. Make sure you read with a box of tissues.
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Very good character development
Mar 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A very good story about how hard life can be. I loved how multiple people told the story. How you don't have to be related to be a family. Loved it.
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