Review: On the Wings of a Hummingbird by Susan Mills

Queer Contemporary Drama On the Wings of a Hummingbird featuring a lesbian PoC girl from Guatemala left me struggling to connect.

Quick Info
On the Wings of a Hummingbird

  • Title: On the Wings of a Hummingbird
  • Series: standalone
  • Author: Susan Mills
  • Release Date: 3rd May 2022
  • Genre: contemporary, drama
  • Content Warnings: assault, sexual assault, rape, drugging, drug use, corporal punishment, murder
  • Diversity: PoC
  • Rating: 2.5/5

On the Wings of a Hummingbird

At 15 years old, Petra must grow into the lessons of the Mayan hummingbird as she carves her future out of a childhood scarred by gang violence.

Petra’s life has been upended by local gang violence in her small Guatemalan village. Her childhood friend Emilio had a hand in their friend Justina’s murder, and his father is the local gang leader’s right-hand man. Betrayed by Emilio and abandoned by her mother who has fled to the U.S., Petra now fears for her own life. Petra ultimately flees to the U.S., but the pressures follow her there. As she attempts to reconcile with her mother over the abandonment, Petra is alarmed that her mother disregards the danger when he shows up near their home. The novel explores forgiveness and redemption, how to heal oneself and find a future of integrity with friends and community who have participated in atrocities.

The Queer’s Review

I was struggling to connect to the characters and story throughout the whole book.

One reason for this is probably that Petra and I are from totally different cultural backgrounds so I’d love to see reviews done by ownvoices bloggers. If you know of any, please link me to those reviews! The author isn’t ownvoices as well but has been working as an immigration attorney so there’s that.

Anyway. I came into On the Wings of a Hummingbird expecting it to focus on Petra being in the US but we’re actually learning more about her life in Guatemala than in the US. But even though there’s this focus, I don’t feel like I actually got to know Petra herself. I don’t understand her emotions, most of her reactions left me confused and at times questioning the reason behind them. I don’t see different cultural upbringings as the main reason for it but the writing itself. I also couldn’t connect to her family and the motivations behind those actions. Especially her grandmother, who I wanted to shake and yell at so much.

Most times it felt… disconnected and somehow written as if English hasn’t been a first language? It’s difficult to describe but it felt a little bit like it has been written using the way of speaking a different language. And I say this as someone whose first language is German and who has been known to do that because language shapes our thinking.

There was also the issue of Spanish thrown in in a way people who are first learning a new language throw it in. It didn’t really flow for me. Also, a language glossary would have been helpful. And speaking of helpful, a glossary presenting the characters and some information about them would have been too.

That’s another reason why I couldn’t connect. So many characters I was struggling to put into their place, first in Guatemala and then in the US. Especially the latter didn’t feel three-dimensional, sometimes not even two-dimensional.

After this paragraph, there are some small spoilers relating to the content warnings but I want to take about those anyway because they occupied my thoughts during reading and after finishing Susan Mills’ book. So if you want to skip those, I’ll leave you with this parting note: I’m wary of the forgiving everyone message that is so dominant in this story which is connected to the content warnings.

The casual way of using drugs, as a minor no less, and how accepting Petra’s mother was about this, left me confused. Especially considering she was drugged so her former childhood best friend Emilio could kidnap her, where she was sexually assaulted. This time not by him, but he kept harassing her, threatening her, oh yeah and he killed her other best friend when they were really young during whose murder he possibly raped her.

How is it healthy to forgive that person just after a small sob story without him actually putting in the effort? But okay, maybe forgive him to try to heal that trauma of yourself. But letting him back into your life???

Weirdly enough, Emilio was the only character I was interested in. Maybe I would have seen his efforts if the book would have been about him. Side note, he always reminded me of another character named Emilio who is a drug dealer, murderer, and so much more. I don’t wanna recommend that book series because its author turned out to be a manipulative asshole.

Anyway. At least the forgiveness part in terms of Petra’s mother made sense. Simply as an action, here, again, I’m missing the reasoning, the working on it, behind the act.

Bookish Thoughts

“Do that for a while, Petra, and you forget how you used to think. You forget who you are.”

Kindle Pos. 4968


I received a free copy through the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you.

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