The Distance Between Us

The Distance Between Us

by

Reyna Grande

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Papi’s second wife, Mila, is a stylish and modern woman who is a U.S. citizen. As such she enjoys special privileges, and is able to travel freely between the United States and Mexico. She has three children of her own, but barely sees them—they were so angry at her for leaving her first husband for Natalio that they mostly refuse to have a relationship with her. Mila finds herself in charge of raising Reyna, Mago, and Carlos, though she reprimands them when they attempt to get too close to her emotionally or see her as a second mother. For most of the book, Mila avoids bearing the brunt of her husband’s alcoholic rages and physical abuse, while he shunts all of that violence onto his own children. As Mago, Carlos, and Reyna grow older, however, and Mago and Carlos move out to begin lives of their own, Natalio turns his attentions towards Mila and begins abusing her, as well. In the end, Mila forgives Natalio, retracts her restraining orders against him, and moves back into his home—under the condition that he sever his relationship with his children. Throughout the memoir, Mila is a source of “distance” between Reyna, her siblings, and their father, constantly serving as a reminder that they are not his first priority—and that even once the physical distances that once separated their family have been traversed, the emotional distances between them still threaten to tear them apart.

Mila Grande Quotes in The Distance Between Us

The The Distance Between Us quotes below are all either spoken by Mila Grande or refer to Mila Grande. 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:
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Washington Square Press edition of The Distance Between Us published in 2012.
Book Two: Chapter 23 Quotes

Carlos and Mago were furious about what our father had done.

Carlos said, "I spent all that time helping him with the lawyer, defending him from Mila and her restraining orders, for what? So that he could just betray us like this?"

"I'm never speaking to him again," Mago said. "He used us. He just wanted us around because he was lonely and depressed, and now that he has her back he doesn’t need us!" Once again, we were orphans.

I thought about the border that separates the United States and Mexico. I wondered if during their crossing, both my father and mother had lost themselves in that no-man's-land. I wondered if my real parents were still there, caught between two worlds. I imagined them trying to make their way back to us. I truly hoped that one day they would.

Page Number: 315
Explanation and Analysis:
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Mila Grande Character Timeline in The Distance Between Us

The timeline below shows where the character Mila Grande appears in The Distance Between Us. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book One: Chapter 19
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
Forgiveness and Recognition Theme Icon
...then introduces them all to a woman sitting beside him on the couch—her name is Mila, and she is his new girlfriend. Mila is fashionable and pretty, but Reyna feels bad... (full context)
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
...reaches into his suitcase, a bunch of scorpions come out and nearly bite him. Frightened, Mila asks when the two of them are going “home.” At this, Mago is surprised—she points... (full context)
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
...crossing will be dangerous, Papi assures her it’ll be fine—but shares a nervous look with Mila. (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 1
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
...the sofa bed in the living room where they have been sleeping (as Papi and Mila’s apartment has only one bedroom) and they huddle together, listening to the sounds of sirens,... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 2
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
The day before Reyna’s first Halloween in the United States, Mila comes home with a Rainbow Brite costume for her. Reyna doesn’t know who Rainbow Brite... (full context)
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
That evening Mila hurries Reyna to get ready for trick-or-treating. Reyna insists she doesn’t want to go. Mila... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 3
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
One afternoon, Mila picks Reyna up from school early to take her to the dentist. Reyna has been... (full context)
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
...is discovered inside of it. Groggy from the anesthesia on the way home, Reyna addresses Mila as “Mamá Mila,” and Mila swiftly and cruelly reprimands her. Reyna apologizes with tears in... (full context)
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
...mother. Reyna feels ashamed—and even more so for thinking of all the ways in which Mila has “advantages” that their own mother does not. When Papi gets home, Reyna hears Mila,... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 4
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
One evening, Mila makes spaghetti for dinner. Reyna hates spaghetti—it reminds her of the roundworms she, Mago, and... (full context)
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
...his room with his beer, and while Mago helps Reyna clean up in the bathroom, Mila makes Reyna some scrambled eggs to eat. Reyna cries in the shower, wishing she could... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 5
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
The next day, on Christmas morning, the children present Papi and Mila with their “gifts,” and Mila and Papi present them with theirs. Reyna gets a pair... (full context)
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
Two weeks later, Papi calls the children into the kitchen one evening as he and Mila are going through the mail. He points out an exorbitant bill and asks who the... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 6
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
...Stunned, he goes into his room, closes the door, and does not come back out. Mila comes home a little while later, and when the children tell her what Papi did... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 11
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
...assures her that soon they are all going to change their immigration statuses. He and Mila have been officially married, and she is going to use her privileges as a citizen... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 12
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
...marriage. Papi announces that he is going to go home and get his house back. Mila warns him that if he goes home and is caught crossing the border on the... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 15
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 20
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
...summer, and Reyna begins selling his beer cans at the recycling center. He argues with Mila nonstop, but never hits her—he takes out his rage physically on Reyna instead, beating her... (full context)
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
...She calls for Mago, but her sister does not come for her. Suddenly, the beating stops—Mila has intervened. (full context)
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
Reyna asks Mila why Mago didn’t come to help her. Papi insists that Mago doesn’t care about Reyna... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 21
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
...bedroom becomes both her prison and her haven. In order to avoid her father and Mila, Reyna retreats entirely in her bedroom, ignoring her hunger pangs and urinating into a bucket... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 22
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
...what’s going on at home: that Papi is having an affair, and that he and Mila are fighting more—and that the fights have turned physical. (full context)
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
After one such horrible fight, Mila goes to the hospital because Papi pushed her down the stairs and onto some gardening... (full context)
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
...to behave, Diana soothes her anxieties and makes Reyna feel welcome. Reyna hears word that Mila has dropped all charges against Papi and has moved back into the apartment, but Reyna... (full context)
Book Two: Chapter 23
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
A year and a half later, Mila finally decides to leave Papi. Reyna is surprised. Even more shocking is the fact that... (full context)
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma Theme Icon
Forgiveness and Recognition Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Poverty, Abuse, and Trauma 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... (full context)
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal 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... (full context)
Book Two: Epilogue
Physical and Emotional Distances Theme Icon
Forgiveness and Recognition Theme Icon
...an American Book Award; in 2009, her second novel follows. She repairs her relationship with Mila and her father. When Reyna has children, they call Mila “Grandma Mila.” (full context)