I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

by

Erika L. Sánchez

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Julia’s saint-like older sister Olga is already deceased at the start of the book, run over in the street by a huge truck after she was forced to take the bus home when Julia’s trouble at school required Amá to pick her up instead of Olga one fateful September afternoon. Julia’s guilt and grief over her sister’s death are immense, but she’s unable to really emote or express her sadness. Julia lived her whole life in Olga’s shadow, slipping further and further into rebellion, sarcasm, and introversion as she felt mounting pressure to be just as unimpeachable as the lovely Olga, who did all the things a “perfect Mexican daughter” should—stayed close to home and devoted to her parents while ignoring attention from boys and focusing instead on community college classes and a job at a medical office. After Olga’s death, Julia is desperate to learn more about the sister she always felt so distant from—but as she plunders through Olga’s things, she discovers much more than she bargained for. The discovery of sexy lingerie and a hotel key card pique Julia’s interest, and as she begs Olga’s old friends for answers, she discovers that Olga was not the person everyone thought she was—not by a long shot. Though Olga is not an active character in the novel, her presence looms over everyone and everything, pushing Julia onwards to uncover her family’s deepest secrets and understand her roots more clearly, with a more open heart.

Olga Reyes Quotes in I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

The I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter quotes below are all either spoken by Olga Reyes or refer to Olga Reyes. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Secrets and Lies Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Knopf edition of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter published in 2017.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Saint Olga, the perfect Mexican daughter. Sometimes I wanted to scream at her until something switched on in her brain. But the only time I ever asked her why she didn’t move out or go to a real college, she told me to leave her alone in a voice so weak and brittle, I never wanted to ask her again. Now I’ll never know what Olga would have become. Maybe she would have surprised us all.

Related Characters: Julia Reyes (speaker), Olga Reyes
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
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Olga’s friend Angie comes running in, looking like she was the one hit by a semi. She’s beautiful, but, damn, is she an ugly crier. Her skin is like a bright pink rag someone has wrung out. As soon as she sees Olga, she starts howling almost worse than Amá. I wish I knew the right thing to say, but I don’t. I never do.

Related Characters: Julia Reyes (speaker), Olga Reyes, Amá/Amparo Montenegro Reyes, Angie
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 4 Quotes

“You know, Julia, you’re always causing trouble, creating problems for your family. Now that she’s dead, all of a sudden you want to know everything about her? You hardly even spoke to her. Why didn’t you ask her anything when she was alive? Maybe you wouldn’t have to be here, asking me questions about her love life.”

Related Characters: Angie (speaker), Julia Reyes, Olga Reyes
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 7 Quotes

The sky is still dark, but it’s beginning to brighten. There are beautiful, faint streaks of orange over the lake. It looks like it’s been cracked open.

I think of Jazmyn’s face when I told her about Olga. Everywhere I go, my sister’s ghost is hovering.

Related Characters: Julia Reyes (speaker), Olga Reyes, Lorena, Juanga, Jazmyn
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 13 Quotes

Amá just shakes her head. “You know, Julia, maybe if you knew how to behave yourself, to keep your mouth shut, your sister would still be alive. Have you ever thought about that?” She finally says it. She says what her big, sad eyes were telling me all along.

Related Characters: Julia Reyes (speaker), Amá/Amparo Montenegro Reyes (speaker), Olga Reyes
Related Symbols: Julia’s Quinceañera
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 18 Quotes

What if I’m wrong about my sister? What if she was the sweet, boring Olga I always knew her to be? What if I just want to think there was something below the surface? What if, in my own messed-up way, I want her to be less than perfect, so I didn’t feel like such a fuck-up?

Related Characters: Julia Reyes (speaker), Olga Reyes
Page Number: 237
Explanation and Analysis:
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How could I have been so dumb not to notice anything? But then again, how would anyone have known? Olga kept this sealed up and buried like an ancient tomb. My whole life I’ve been considered the bad daughter, while my sister was secretly living another life, the kind of life that would shatter Amá into tiny pieces. I don’t want to be mad at Olga because she’s dead, but I am.

Related Characters: Julia Reyes (speaker), Olga Reyes, Amá/Amparo Montenegro Reyes
Page Number: 240
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 22 Quotes

My body feels like it weighs a thousand pounds. I picture my mother’s face streaked with tears and dirt, my father bowing his head in defeat. “And Olga? What about Olga? She was . . . She was ...” I can’t get the words out.

Tía Fermina clasps her hands to her chest and nods. “See, mija, that’s why I want you to know. So when you and your mother fight, you can see where she’s come from and understand what’s happened to her. She doesn’t mean to hurt you.”

Page Number: 274-275
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 24 Quotes

“I understand that it hurts, believe me, but this isn’t about you. […] Why would you want to cause your family more pain?

“Because we shouldn’t be living lies,” I say. […] “I’m tired of pretending and letting things blister inside me. Keeping things to myself almost killed me. I don’t want to live like that anymore.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Forget it.” Part of me wonders if Angie is right—who am I to do this to my family?—but I hate this feeling, like the weight of this will make my chest collapse.

Angie wipes the tears from her eyes with her palms. “Some things should never be said out loud, Julia. Can’t you see that?”

Related Characters: Julia Reyes (speaker), Angie (speaker), Olga Reyes, Amá/Amparo Montenegro Reyes, Apá/Rafael Reyes
Page Number: 295-296
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 26 Quotes

“What do I do with this?” I say to myself aloud. “How do I bury this, too?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, how am I going to keep this secret? Why do I have to be the one living with this shit?”

“Please, don’t tell your parents. Olga never wanted to hurt them.”

“Why wouldn’t I? And why should I listen to you?”

“Sometimes it’s best not to tell the truth.”

Page Number: 312
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 27 Quotes

There are times the secrets feel like strangling vines. Is it considered lying when you hold something locked up inside you? What if the information would only cause people pain? Who would benefit from knowing about Olga’s affair and pregnancy? Is it kind or selfish for me to keep this all to myself? Would it be messed up if I said it just so I don’t have to live with it alone? It’s exhausting.

Related Characters: Julia Reyes (speaker), Olga Reyes
Page Number: 314
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 29 Quotes

I still have nightmares about Olga. Sometimes she’s a mermaid again, other times she’s holding her baby, which is often not a baby at all. Usually, it’s a rock, a fish, or even a sack of rags. Though it’s slowed, my guilt still grows like branches. I wonder when it’ll stop, feeling bad for something that’s not my fault. Who knows? Maybe never.

Related Characters: Julia Reyes (speaker), Olga Reyes
Page Number: 339
Explanation and Analysis:
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I pull out Olga’s ultrasound picture from my journal before we land. At times, it looks like an egg. Occasionally, it looks like an eye. The other day I was convinced I could see it pulsing. How can I ever give this to my parents, something else to love, something dead? These last two years I combed and delved through my sister’s life to better understand her, which meant I learned to find pieces of myself—both beautiful and ugly—and how amazing is it that I hold a piece of her right here in my hands?

Page Number: 340
Explanation and Analysis:
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Get the entire I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter LitChart as a printable PDF.
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Olga Reyes Character Timeline in I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

The timeline below shows where the character Olga Reyes appears in I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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Julia Reyes and her family are attending the funeral of Julia’s older sister, Olga. As Julia peers into her sister’s casket, she is surprised by the “lingering smirk” on... (full context)
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...dreams of being a famous writer, was both jealous of and confused by the saint-like Olga while she lived—Olga was “the perfect Mexican daughter,” while Julia is far from this ideal.... (full context)
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Julia isn’t alone in being unable to express emotion about Olga’s death—her father, Apá, also hasn’t cried yet. Julia insists that she feels a deep grief,... (full context)
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Julia thinks back on the day Olga died, wishing she had been able to keep her sister from leaving the house. The... (full context)
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...trouble at school and had to be picked up by Amá on the day of Olga’s death, Olga had to take the bus home from school rather than get picked up—then,... (full context)
Chapter 2
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After Olga’s funeral, Amá doesn’t leave her bed for nearly two weeks. She only gets up to... (full context)
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...taking a shower. Amá yells at Julia for being “suddenly concerned with cleanliness,” remarking that Olga was always “the clean one.” Julia flatly states that Olga is gone before taking five... (full context)
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...party, Amá replies that she is full of regret that she never got to give Olga a quincé—and isn’t going to make the same mistake twice. Julia insists she doesn’t want... (full context)
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...can’t sleep lately, she gets out of her own bed and goes to crawl into Olga’s, even though Amá has forbidden her from entering her sister’s room. Julia is comforted by... (full context)
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Olga has always been the favorite, taking their mother’s side in arguments—of which there have always... (full context)
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Julia gets out of bed and begins going through Olga’s closet. She finds old pictures and clothes stuffed in boxes—but in one box, finds a... (full context)
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In the morning, Julia wakes up in Olga’s bed. She panics, knowing that if she gets caught in the room she’ll be in... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Julia has been grounded for going into Olga’s room—Amá took away her phone and has forbidden her from closing her bedroom door. Julia... (full context)
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...decides to go downtown to The Continental after school to look for some answers about Olga’s connection to it. Julia dresses flamboyantly and feistily for the day in fishnets and Chuck... (full context)
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Julia heads to The Continental, where she shows the front desk associate a picture of Olga and asks whether the staff has ever seen her in the hotel before. The concierge... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...best friend won’t return her calls. Julia hopes that Angie can tell her something about Olga that she doesn’t know. As she walks down the street, she laments the chilly weather—Julia... (full context)
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...bed in Angie’s room, the walls of which are covered with photos of her and Olga. Julia immediately begins peppering Angie with questions about Olga—whether Olga was texting Angie when she... (full context)
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Julia is intrigued by Angie’s voluntary admission that something was up with Olga’s love life, and asks her to say more about it—but Angie becomes upset, and tells... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...a project—when really she’s planning on going to Lorena’s to do some “internet snooping” about Olga, since there’s no internet at the Reyes home. Julia knows that even though she and... (full context)
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Julia tells Lorena about the things she found in Olga’s room—the lingerie and the hotel key card. Lorena doesn’t think the items are such a... (full context)
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...to his house, hopeful he’ll be able to help them track down some information about Olga. When the car pulls up though, Julia sees there is a young guy in the... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...a good eater. Julia thinks about how no one in the family used to tease Olga the way they tease her. (full context)
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...when Julia jumps into a nearby river to escape, she sees a mermaid version of Olga who keeps swimming away from her. (full context)
Chapter 7
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...about never being able to get out of their “stupid neighborhood.” Amá vindictively states that Olga never felt the need to go out and see the world—she was content at home.... (full context)
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...lost in thought. A young woman in a catsuit approaches her and asks if she’s Olga’s sister—she introduces herself as Jazmyn, a high school friend of Olga’s. Julia feels a hazy... (full context)
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Julia, stunned, tells Jazmyn that Olga is dead. She is intrigued by the idea that Olga was in love with someone—Julia... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...and Amá asks Julia about how she’s doing in school. When the conversation transitions to Olga, Julia timidly asks if Olga had a boyfriend—Amá insists angrily that Olga was not the... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...she’ll run into the sister of the host—a girl who went to high school with Olga. Amá surprisingly agrees to let Julia goes to the dance, but insists on helping her... (full context)
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...can focus on nothing else. As the party gets sloppier and there’s no sign of Olga’s classmate, Julia finds Lorena and says she wants to go home. Lorena is flirting with... (full context)
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...feet on the couch. Julia feels bad for her father, who always told her and Olga how important it was to get a good job in a nice office with air... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...over—Christmas and New Year’s have passed by in a sad, slow blur. No one mentioned Olga during the holidays, but her absence hovered around everyone. As spring arrives in Chicago, Julia... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...to college. When she’s home alone—a rarity—she occupies herself by searching for the key to Olga’s room, but hasn’t been able to find it anywhere. She feels as if she’s hit... (full context)
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One day after school. Julia takes the train to Olga’s drab and dreary community college. She finds the registrar’s building and approaches the record desk,... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...through eavesdropping on her parents’ conversation, that they’re paying for the party with money from Olga’s savings and life insurance. Though Julia wishes they’d use that money to send her to... (full context)
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...makes sense, and the already painful parts of her life have been made worse by Olga’s death. (full context)
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...Julia agrees. She then changes the subject, telling Lorena about her failed attempt to get Olga’s transcripts from the community college. She says it doesn’t make any sense that Olga never... (full context)
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...getting her number from a friend. She asks Jazmyn to tell her more about what Olga said about being “in love” the last time Jazmyn ran into her. Jazmyn says the... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...Lorena and Julia run into Julia’s gossipy Tía Milagros. She greets Julia by remarking that Olga must be “so happy” for her right now—Julia flatly replies that Olga is dead. Milagros... (full context)
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...up late with a gift in tow, Julia corners her and demands to know if Olga had a boyfriend when she died—Angie deflects the question, claiming that Olga wouldn’t have had... (full context)
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...and tells Julia that perhaps if she could only “keep her mouth shut” and behave, Olga would still be alive. (full context)
Chapter 14
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...that her sister died last year—she tells Connor that though she feels she never knew Olga, she finds herself wishing lately that there was still a way to get to know... (full context)
Chapter 15
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It’s been a year since Olga’s death, and Julia admits that sometimes she still catches herself looking at the front door,... (full context)
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Julia has been having nightmares about Olga, and intense waking flashbacks to their shared childhood. She feels mired in grief—her only moments... (full context)
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...Connor’s parents would leave him home alone—Amá and Apá would never let Julia or even Olga stay by themselves—but tells herself that “white people are different” and accepts his invitation. Julia... (full context)
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...a small bag which contains some of Amá’s jewelry, as well as the key to Olga’s room. (full context)
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...night, after Amá and Apá are asleep, Julia gets up and opens the door to Olga’s room. She takes out the laptop, lingerie, and hotel key card and hides the underwear... (full context)
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...next afternoon, Julia comes home to find her mother crying on the sofa—the boxes containing Olga’s lingerie are open on the living room floor. Though Julia insists that the items aren’t... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...her parents, by Chicago, and by her family’s desire for her to be more like Olga—more perfect. (full context)
Chapter 18
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...kill herself. Julia says that everything just became too much—things had been bad enough after Olga’s death, but once Amá found Olga’s things and grounded Julia, Julia started to feel like... (full context)
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That night, Julia sneaks into Olga’s room again to look for more clues. She’s leaving for Mexico in the morning, and... (full context)
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...it and enters the text as the laptop’s password, it opens. There’s nothing much on Olga’s hard drive, but in her emails, Julia finds what she’s been looking for: clandestine, angry... (full context)
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Julia replaces the laptop under Olga’s bed, knowing there’s no use in taking it to Mamá Jacinta’s house in Los Ojos.... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...in her carry-on bag, soaking all of her belongings—and ruining the piece of paper with Olga’s login information written on it. (full context)
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...work “like a donkey” like the rest of her family. Chucho laments the loss of Olga, calling her “la inocente”—the innocent. Julia winces as she remembers that no one in her... (full context)
Chapter 20
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...she’ll be in Mexico. She wonders if she’ll ever be able to find out who Olga’s boyfriend was, and as she thinks about what she knows so far, decides that he... (full context)
Chapter 22
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...Amá is doing, and Julia admits that things at home have been extremely difficult since Olga’s death. Fermina laments that she can’t do more for her sister, and expresses sorrow at... (full context)
Chapter 23
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...Amá’s turn to speak, she admits that she’s been neglecting Julia in the wake of Olga’s loss—and that she has a lot to learn about who Julia is and what she... (full context)
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That night, once her parents are asleep, Julia uses her key to get back into Olga’s room and finish reading her emails. She hops onto a neighbor’s internet and reads through... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...Julia the truth. Angie insists that no one would have “gain[ed]” anything from learning the truth—Olga is dead, and the truth would only have hurt people. Sometimes, Angie says, “people don’t... (full context)
Chapter 25
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Julia tells Lorena the truth about Olga—that she was pregnant when she died, and had been seeing a married man for years.... (full context)
Chapter 26
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After school one day, Julia takes the bus to Olga’s office. She sits in the waiting room, looking at the list of doctors who work... (full context)
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...to get, in she confronts him. When he asks who she is, she says she’s Olga’s sister. He replies that Olga was a “wonderful employee” and is missed by all. Julia... (full context)
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At the diner, Dr. Castillo tells Julia that he truly loved Olga—and that when Julia’s older, she’ll be able to understand just how complicated things were between... (full context)
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...to keep this secret. Dr. Castillo begs her not to tell her parents, claiming that Olga wouldn’t want to “hurt” them—sometimes, he says, it’s best not to tell the truth. Julia... (full context)
Chapter 27
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...secrets she’s keeping are beginning to “feel like strangling vines.” Julia constantly questions whether keeping Olga’s secrets is selfish, or whether the more selfish thing would be to share them with... (full context)
Chapter 29
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Julia still has nightmares about Olga, and isn’t sure if they’ll ever stop—or if she’ll ever stop feeling badly about carrying... (full context)