Book Review: It’s Just Lola by Dixiane Hallaj

It’s Just Lola is the story of Lola, the author’s grandmother, as told to Lola’s daughter, and then from Lola’s daughter to the author. As the author attests, the story is based on truth, but any holes in the plot were filled with fiction. Even more intriguing is the fact that both lolaLola and her daughter told the tale to their next of kin only when they felt the hand of death compelling them to share their tale.

Born in the late 1800s to a wealthy Peruvian landowner, Lola has a rocky life. She’s seduced and pregnant at age 14, widowed at 15, and the challenges don’t stop there. She’s got a manipulative step-mother, a prideful father, and men in her life with their own strong wills. But Lola prevails, using her skill to sew dresses and uniforms to make money, her arithmetic skills to become a clerk, her business acumen to help her father with his plantation, and her intellect to learn medicine through books. Through each challenge, Lola’s positive attitude prevails, and she uses her intellect and abilities to make the best of each situation, providing the best for herself and her growing family. I enjoyed how Lola was a strong woman in an era when many women relied on men. I won’t give away too many of the plot twists, but you’ll get to experience different cultures (from Peru to America, and even a South-American distrust of Britain—and Lola’s British husband—during the war), the effects of industrialization and life in the cities, and the effects of World War I. Lola’s strength, starting from such a young age, makes her a sympathetic and likeable protagonist and will make you want to keep reading to see how her life turns out.

I enjoyed the author’s writing style. It was easily accessible, adding just the right amount of details to make each episode relevant. As I read, I felt like I was getting to know Lola as a real person, which is a real testament to the author’s writing (as well as her grandmother’s strong personality). While reading the book, I was dealing with plumbing problems in my home, which I felt (at the time) were the end of the world, but reading Lola’s story made me realize that life can throw much more difficult challenges at us, and she inspired me to stay strong–that this, too, shall pass.

Though I think this book would appeal more to women than men, it would also appeal to anyone with a love of experiencing history as a narrative—experiencing the challenges of a different era through the eyes of a likable protagonist. I’m not a fan of non-fiction because I rarely feel I can relate to the characters, but this book was completely different: I  recommend this book with enthusiasm.

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