The author also divides the novel into three parts each focusing on distinct by key phases in the lives of the Garca girls. Initially, one is introduced to the adult women, then the teenaged sisters and later to the characters as children. This backward moving look into lives of Sofia, Sandra, Yolanda and Carla seems to pay homage to memory and as such is a deliberate attempt by Alvarez to force us as readers to look deeper into the meaning of the characters' existence and the crisis of identity that still seems to haunt them in their mature lives. It is this narrative approach that brings emphasis on memory as a theme of the novel.
The novel has clear autobiographical undertones as the experiences of the protagonists are quite similar to the life of Julia Alvarez, whose family was forced to flee the Dominican Republic as political refugees to the United States. It is because of this, memory becomes a topic of importance in the story. Although these women are grown, like Alvarez, they are still searching for reconciliation. They have a longing to go back to the past, to seek out new meaning as Yolanda hopes to do by returning to the Dominican Republic or even to heal broken relationships as Sofia attempts by uniting the past and the old (her father) with the future and the new (her son). It is here that immense significance is found in the prediction that was made by Chucha, the Garca sisters' childhood maid; it is their memory that is important to their self understanding.
Memory is highlighted as a theme of the novel but it also becomes intertwined with the characters' search for identity. The protagonists can neither lay claim to the Dominican Republic, where they were born, nor to the United States, where they grew up and were educated. This is a constant and real identity crisis that plagues the sisters. This duality is a source of confusion and is highlighted in the second part of the novel where the problems that faced the sisters during their adolescence were similar to other average American girls but exacerbated by the language and cultural barrier that still prevented them from being completely assimilated into the American way of life. So, this struggle to find a place of acceptance is engrained in their memory and continues to be a poignant reality in their adult lives. One can look at the author's use of the reverse chronological narration as perhaps her indication that the answers to the women's questions about self and identity can be found by looking back and as such she ends the book by re-calling the infancy of the Garca sisters.
The third part describes the characters' childhood, and highlights the political motivations for the family's move from the Dominican Republic. The father's attempt to flee from the dictatorship of Rafael L. Trujillo was unimportant to the young Sofia, Sandra, Yolanda and Carla. However, by ending on such a memory, the author is suggesting that any reconciliation in the women's present circumstances can be found by embracing the past. They are truly strong women because of the challenges that they have faced and which they would undoubtedly continue to face that make them who they are. As long as they can bring together their life experiences there will be reconciliation of the family, relationships and most