Genre: Adult Magical Realism Historical Fiction
Year Release: 2020
Source: Chirp Audiobooks
Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: child abuse, cartel violence, discrimination, hate crimes, alcoholism, physical violence, vehicular manslaughter
Fulgencio Ramirez is a renowned pharmacist in the border town of La Frontera. He scans the newspaper, waiting for news of a death. When it comes, we’re launched into the epic tale of his and Carolina Mendelssohn star-crossed romance, starting in the 50’s and onward. There’s tragedy, heartbreak, the dead not being truly gone, serenades with mariachi bands, roses blooming in winter, and the pursuit of the American dream. This book was a delight through all the twists and turns.
Bittersweet, deeply romantic, the dead are never truly gone in this work of magical realism. In fact, death might just be the beginning.
Where to even begin with this novel? It starts with one of my favorite set-ups: This dude totally needs/needed to die and let me tell you why. It’s a long journey until the reader finds out why the twenty-two lettered man needed to go. But what a journey it was.
Fulgencio is a deeply flawed man. I’d even go far to say he’s an idiot. There’s a fascinated aspect to his story, however, in the form of La Maldición, a family curse. But Ruiz never lets Fulgencio off the hook. The young boy turned man has full agency over his actions. This extends to his growth as well. As his relationship with the curse evolves, he still needs to work on himself. Magic won’t make things spontaneously better, but sometimes hope can give one that extra push.
The word “resurrection” in the story plays an important role in the narrative as well, in very literal ways. I loved Fulgencio’s cohort of dead compadres. He’s never really alone and has an entire support system of people both living and dead to support him. The lines between past and present are blurry as heck, and Ruiz makes it work so well.
A gripping journey from start to finish that also takes into account the political tumult of its various decades.