by Teresa Dovalpage
This delightful and surprising book teaches us that we imagine the past as much as we imagine the future.
When Juan left Havana on a raft in 1994, he imagined he would take Miami by storm and soon be rich and famous singing Cuban songs and playing the guitar. He arrived half-dead with the corpse of his friend Camilo beside him on their raft.
His reality, 20 years later, is marriage to a successful realtor 10 years his senior in Albuquerque and a job as a handyman and painter for the houses she sells.
At mid-life, he has an attack of homesickness. He wants to thank his long-time friend Victor, for looking after his dying father and senile grandmother. He wants to apologize to his “second-best girlfriend” Rosita, who may have been pregnant when he left. But most of all, he wants to reconnect with Elsa, his favorite girl friend, whom he has dreamed of all these years.
The fatal flaw in this dream is that he still imagines his friends as they were 20 years ago. All had dreams of becoming famous celebrities. All have lives that went in directions much different than they dreamed.
This book is infused with Santería and its many orisha or spirits. The orisha have had their own plans for Juan and his friends. Some involve rewards — some involve unexpected retribution.
The book opens with an image of the orisha Oyá, dressed in purple with a necklace of bones, dancing alone at the gates of the cemetery. Aptly, Oyá is the spirit of winds, lightning, violent storms, death and rebirth.
This wonderful novel is a tragic comedy of errors; of friends too self-absorbed to truly know each other when they were young and now serving agendas running deeply at cross-purposes. This is a riff on how much of our lives are out of our control — and how fatal fighting fate can be.
The Author: Teresa Dovalpage (1966 – )
Teresa Dovalpage knows much of what her characters experience in this book. Born in Havana, she left for the United States in 1996. She earned a doctorate in Latin American literature from the University of New Mexico.
To date, she has published eight novels. Her fourth novel, El Difunto Fidel (The Late Fidel) won Spain’s Rincon de la Victoria Award in 2009. She has also published plays and short story collections.
In 2016, she wrote a mystery, Death Comes in through the Kitchen, featuring Padrino, a santero detective. She has also written about Padrino in a short story.
She lives in Taos, New Mexico. As of 2018, she teaches Spanish and English as a second language at New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs, New Mexico.