"They came in boats and airplanes, armed with false documents and holy terror and a grinding wariness of what they would find. . . . They came and left behind family members clutching photographs, and promises to send money and frequent letters and powdered milk or vacuum cleaners or whatever it was impossible to find that year. . . . Each brought along a cord that stretched all the way back to the island and when they slept, each prayed the cord would send along news from home until slowly, each one came to call this place home and the cords wavered beneath the weight of that present tense” (loc. 302).
Thanks to partner NetGalley for the digital ARC of Daniel José Older’s The Book of Lost Saints in exchange for an honest review. The book released Tuesday, November 5.
Daniel José Older’s The Book of Lost Saints is a strange, brilliant, gorgeous novel filled with magic and ghosts and love. I love it so, so much and recommend that you pre-order it quickly!
The book’s narrator is Marisol. A ghost. She is one of three Cuban sisters, two of whom were lost during the Cuban Revolution. Marisol, the youngest, has returned in spirit form to seek vengeance and to discover the truth of her disappearance before her spirit also disappears. She haunts her nephew, Ramón, son of Nilda, planting her memories in his dreams in hopes both of being remembered and of spurring him on to investigate the truth of what happened to her.
Older’s novel is gritty and real, and Marisol is the perfect narrator for such a book. She doesn’t shy away from sex or nudity or violence. Instead, she embraces all that is life, hungry for vitality and eager to anchor herself to the world in all its beauty and ugliness. She is also inherently curious, eager to take in everything about the people around her, about the home she lost, about the world as it is now.
As we—alongside Ramón—learn Marisol’s story, we begin to see the shape of her life. She and her eldest sister Isabel are drawn in to the Revolution and to the repercussions of the new regime. Ramón, born in the United States, has never been to Cuba but nevertheless deals with the fallout that has followed his community even as they tried to leave war behind.
This is a rich, rich story, full of romance and love, violence and revolution, loyalty and spite. There are friendships and betrayals, old ties and new alliances. It’s a master work of discovery as we watch Marisol learn the truth of her own life and Ramón understand the history that haunts his family and, therefore, himself. Daniel José Older’s beautiful writing, brilliant imagination, and keen sense of history have produced a brilliant novel in The Book of Lost Saints.