The Distance Between Us

The Distance Between Us

by

Reyna Grande

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The Distance Between Us: Book Two: Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A year and a half later, Mila finally decides to leave Papi. Reyna is surprised. Even more shocking is the fact that Mila withdraws a large sum of money from their savings account and files a restraining order against him. Carlos begs Reyna to return home and help Papi, but Reyna refuses. A few days later, Carlos calls again to tell Reyna that Papi has attempted suicide—Carlos walked into the apartment to find Papi holding a gun, and saw a bullet hole in the wall just above Papi’s head. Papi insisted he had simply been cleaning the gun when it went off, but Carlos knows better. He begs Reyna to move back in and keep an eye on Papi—neither Carlos nor Mago, who are busy with their own children, can do it.
As Papi’s situation worsens, it becomes evident that he has alienated everyone in the family—no one wants to, or will make time to, take care of him. The duty falls to Reyna, who in many ways, as the youngest, has borne the brunt of her father’s violence.
Themes
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
Out of obligation, Reyna returns home to her father’s side. She has graduated from PCC and, in the fall, will be heading off to study at UC Santa Cruz. She wants to be able to go up north with a free conscience and decides that spending the summer taking care of Papi will allow her to have a fresh start in the fall. When Reyna arrives at the apartment for the first time in months, she finds Papi sitting alone and seemingly disoriented at the kitchen table. She nervously suggests they go out to dinner, and to her surprise, Papi agrees—he even lets her drive there, giving her advice and guidance along the way.
In spite of all she has suffered, Reyna can’t help but feel a sense of duty and loyalty to Papi. Just as she and her siblings went back to Mami time and time again over the years, Reyna returns now to Papi, but for a slightly different reason—she wants to clear her conscience and repay her debt to him once and for all before opening a new chapter in her life.
Themes
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
As Reyna passes the summer with Papi, she finds he has changed. She often brings her newest boyfriend Edwin over to help cook dinner and watch television with Papi. Surprisingly, Papi likes Edwin, and often the two stay up talking long after Reyna has gone to bed. Slowly, Mago begins reconciling with Papi as well, and even Betty starts coming over to the apartment again. Reyna and her siblings notice that Papi talks about Mila all the time, and though they urge him to forget about her, Papi remains fixated on their relationship.
Though Reyna was preparing for the worst, she and her siblings are surprised to find that Papi is, more or less, a changed man. He seems to have let go of a lot of his anger and violence—though from his fixation with Mila, it seems clear that his need for control is as strong as ever.
Themes
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
Forgiveness and Recognition Theme Icon
Papi attends a court hearing to resolve his legal troubles with Mila. When an argument erupts between Mila, Mago, and Carlos, Mila calls the children “leeches” and says they’d still be “wetbacks” if it weren’t for her. Reyna feels torn—she knows she owes Mila a lot, but can’t explain to her how she and her siblings, despite it all, love their father more than anything.
Mila’s anger towards the children raises their hackles and causes them to defend Papi even more staunchly. Even after all he’s put them through, in some ways, he is still The Man Behind the Glass to them.
Themes
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
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As the weeks go by, Reyna is surprised by the continuing changes in Papi. He never criticizes or yells at Reyna, and he no longer hits her. He actually seems to like having her around, and they spend time together going to parks and restaurants. Papi is, for the first time ever, interested in Reyna’s accomplishments, and she tells him proudly about the many scholarships she has won to attend UC Santa Cruz. She speaks loftily of the beautiful campus and the rigorous curriculum there, confiding all her dreams for her education and her future in Papi at last.
Reyna has been waiting her whole life to impress her Papi, and to get him interested in the things that interest her. Now, after all she’s been through, Reyna finally gets her wish, and she is excited for the chance to show herself—her true self—to her Papi at last.
Themes
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
Forgiveness and Recognition Theme Icon
One night, however, while eating dinner, Papi announces that he has been talking with Mila, and the two of them are going to hold off on the divorce. Mila is coming back home—but there is a condition to her return. She doesn’t want Reyna, Mago, or Carlos around. Reyna is sickened to learn that her father has agreed to this condition, and gravely disappointed when he will not look at her or speak to her further. Reyna goes to her room and packs her bags.
Considering how well things have been going with Papi all summer, and how much Reyna has sacrificed for him, this newest betrayal comes as a particularly painful blow as Reyna is forced to realize that she’s still not the most important thing in Papi’s life.
Themes
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Reyna stays at Diana’s house for the last few days before her trip up to UC Santa Cruz. Carlos and Mago are furious, and proclaim that they will never speak to their father again. Reyna is mostly just depressed—once again, she and her siblings are orphans. She wonders what happened to her “real parents”—perhaps, she thinks, they were “caught between two worlds” when they first crossed the border. Reyna wonders if they will ever find their way back to her.
Even with Papi’s latest betrayal piled on top of all his other betrayals, Reyna continues to see her parents for what they truly are—two flawed people who did their best in the face of tremendous challenges brought on by poverty, cycles of abuse, and the desire to do right by their children. Reyna laments that her parents seem to still be stuck or lost somewhere, but she remains hopeful that things can still change.
Themes
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
Forgiveness and Recognition Theme Icon
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