Study Guide

How the García Girls Lost Their Accents What's Up With the Ending?

By Julia Alvarez

What's Up With the Ending?

One of the best things about this book is that the ending is really, really creepy. What can we say? Our favorite holiday is Halloween. Our ideal Friday involves horror movies.

The final chapter is all about kitten torture and a mama cat who comes back to haunt the torturer Yo for the rest of her life. Check out the last sentence:

At that hour and in that loneliness, I hear her, a black furred thing lurking in the corners of my life, her magenta mouth opening, wailing over some violation that lies at the center of my art. (3.5.60)

We get shivers every time we read this sentence. But aside from just being generally spooky and awesome, we have to ask ourselves what this story means. Why is it here?

One big clue is that, in the very last paragraph, we jump forward in time—all the way from back in 1956, when Yoyo was a little kid about five years old, to the late eighties or early nineties, when Yoyo is an adult. She sums it up: "You understand I am collapsing all time now so that it fits in what's left in the hollow of my story?" (3.5.60). Since we've been moving backwards in time for the past... oh, three hundred pages or so, this jump forward is kind of a big deal.

It gives us the sense that, with the story of the terrible thing Yolanda did to the kitten and the mama cat's grief, we have gone back as far as we can go, and as far as we need to go to understand the person Yolanda is today: "a curious woman, a woman of story ghosts and story devils, a woman prone to bad dreams and bad insomnia" (3.5.60).

This goes along with the idea that writing and storytelling for Yolanda is a kind of therapy. Yolanda tells her story, digging deeper and deeper into her past, until she finally finds the trauma that explains everything: the nightmares and insomnia, the obsessive need to tell stories, the failed relationships and mental breakdowns.

So there ya go. With this final paragraph, and its brilliant final sentence, we have a new understanding of Yoyo's character. We finally get why this whole novel was told backwards. We have some serious theoretical food for thought—art can be inspired by a violation—and we will never look at a black cat the same way again.

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