The Distance Between Us

The Distance Between Us

by

Reyna Grande

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The Distance Between Us: Book Two: Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In June of 1990, Mago becomes the first person on either side of her family to earn a high school diploma. At the same time, Reyna is graduating from junior high. She is the third person to do so, and so her accomplishment is not as special. Still, she holds onto her dreams of the future—dreams given to her by Papi—even in her worst moments, like when Papi beats her in a drunken stupor. Despite all the abuse and badness, Reyna and her siblings’ green cards arrive, and Papi tells them that their futures are in their own hands. Papi even takes out a loan to help Mago pay for college so that she can study to become a lawyer.
Reyna’s old feelings of resentment and inadequacy surface again as Mago graduates from high school. To make things worse, she worries that she will never, ever be able to do enough to make Papi stop abusing her—let alone to make him proud of her.
Themes
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
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Reyna attends band camp at the high school that summer, and the months fly by. Soon, Reyna will be turning fifteen. Though she knows she won’t be having a quinceañera, part of her is looking forward to the milestone. One afternoon, a few days before Reyna’s birthday, Carlos doesn’t come home on time from the park where he’s gone to play with his friends. Hours later, two men bring Carlos through the front door—he is pale, covered in sweat, and has a broken leg.
Even as the tenor of things seems to soften over the summer, there is darkness lurking on the horizon—Papi’s rules are now being tested by Carlos.
Themes
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
Papi yells at Carlos for going to the park in the first place, and then cracks a beer and retreats to his bedroom. Mago asks if Papi is going to take Carlos to the hospital, but he refuses. Carlos begs Mago to take him to the hospital, but no matter how hard she tries to get Papi to come out of his room, he stays put. Reyna wishes she had the courage to call 911, or go find a neighbor. Neither her nor Mago, though, is brave enough to defy their terrifying father. They nurse Carlos through the night, and all the while, Reyna muses at how the Man Behind the Glass was a better father than the one they live with now.
Upon seeing his injured, miserable son, Papi’s first instinct is to continue to punish Carlos further (seemingly to teach him a lesson) rather than doing the sensible thing and helping him. As Reyna realizes just how bad the abuse has gotten, she chides herself for not being able to take action against Papi, while privately mourning the man she thought he was.
Themes
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
In the morning, Papi still refuses to take Carlos to the hospital. Reyna and Mago beg Mila to take him, but she won’t defy Papi, either. Mago goes off to work, and when she tells her coworkers what’s going on, they volunteer to come help her take Carlos to get some help. Just as they arrive and begin loading Carlos into the car, Papi pulls into the driveway and insists on being the one to take Carlos to the hospital.
Papi does not agree to take Carlos to the hospital until other people—outsiders to their family—witness the abuse and mistreatment going on inside their house.
Themes
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
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Carlos comes home later that evening with his leg in a cast, having broken two major bones. After Papi goes to bed, Mila tells the children that because their father grew up in an abusive household, he doesn’t know any other way to behave. Reyna and her siblings understand what life with Augurio and Evila must have been like, but they no longer feel this is an excuse for Papi’s behavior. Still, Reyna feels guilty for expecting more from her father—after all, he brought them to El Otro Lado, and to complain now seems, to her, ungrateful.
Though Papi’s behavior put Carlos in danger and possibly even worsened his condition, Mila continues to assert that Papi’s behavior is beyond his control and that he is blameless for the many cruelties he inflicts upon his children. Reyna finds herself giving into this rhetoric, believing that even abusive treatment from Papi in the U.S. is better than poverty in Mexico.
Themes
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
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