The Distance Between Us

The Distance Between Us

by

Reyna Grande

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The Distance Between Us: Book Two: Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After Carlos’s accident, things change between Mago and Papi. Where Mago once brought home her checks at the end of the week and proudly gave him to Papi to help cover the family’s expenses, Reyna can now see her sister hesitating. She loses interest in her classes at college, and takes a full-time job so that she can pay for a car and clothing. She begins partying on the weekends, and though Reyna warns her that Papi wouldn’t approve of her behavior, Mago insists she no longer cares what Papi thinks of her.
As Mago begins to realize that Papi’s behavior is never going to get better—and is probably only going to get worse—she looks for ways to distance herself from her father’s influence, even going so far as to openly defy him and test the boundaries of his rage.
Themes
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
One afternoon, walking down the street, Mago and Reyna pass by a dress boutique and see a mannequin in the window wearing a gorgeous quinceañera dress. Mago announces that she is going to throw Reyna a proper quinceañera. Reyna tells Mago that the party is too big an extravagance, but Mago insists that she will do anything it takes to make the party happen. When Mago tells Mami about the party, she, too, gets on board with the plan, and offers to help get some godparents for the occasion—people who will help to arrange and pay for certain aspects of the party.
Mago’s decision to throw Reyna an elaborate party for her fifteenth birthday seems to be related to the desires she’s wrestling with privately: the need to strike out on her own, to take responsibility for her and her siblings’ welfare, since it’s become clear that Papi won’t, and to feel that she can spend her own money according to her own wants and needs.
Themes
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
Mago hires a dressmaker to make Reyna’s dress, and soon the day of the event arrives. Reyna is nervous, as she and Mago have lied to the church about Reyna having completed her first communion back in Mexico. All through the church service, and even after, Reyna worries that she has transgressed against God, but when she confesses her feelings to Mago during a photo session before the party, Mago laughs and tells her not to worry—Hell and the devil, she says, aren’t even real.
Though Mago is excited about the quinceañera, Reyna is a little bit more nervous. She has wanted for so long to be a real señorita and have a real quinceañera, but she feels unprepared and fraudulent as the event descends upon her. Reyna is wrestling with her own identity issues, and her own feelings of worthlessness and uncertainty.
Themes
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
The party that night is beautiful and emotional for Reyna—both her parents are there in the same room, even though they are at opposite ends of the banquet hall. Reyna is excited to live her dream of dancing the traditional waltz with Papi—but during the dance, he is visibly drunk and smells of beer. Reyna is filled with regret, wishing she had chosen to dance the waltz with Mago, who made the entire evening a reality. 
Reyna dreamed her whole life of dancing with Papi at her quinceañera. Now that the moment is here, however, she realizes that her father is not—and perhaps never was—worthy of sharing this moment with her. Mago is the one who has looked after her, loved her, and raised her—not The Man Behind the Glass.
Themes
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
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