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1003271,444 (3.7)2
A New York Times Notable Book, an NPR Best Debut of the Year, and a PEN/Hemingway finalist.   These linked stories follow Sabina as she navigates her shifting identity as a daughter of the Colombian diaspora, and struggles to find her place within and beyond the net of her strong, protective, but embattled family.   In "Lucho," Sabina's family--already "foreigners in a town of blancos"--is shunned by the community when a relative commits an unspeakable act of violence, but she is in turn befriended by the town bad boy, who has a secret of his own. In "Desaliento," Sabina surrounds herself with other young drifters who spend their time looking for love and then fleeing from it--until reality catches up with one of them. And in "Vida," the urgency of Sabina's self-imposed exile in Miami fades when she meets an enigmatic Colombian woman with a tragic past.   "Vida calls to mind some of the best fiction from recent years. Like Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge, Engel uses stories about connected characters to illuminate her main subject, in this case Sabina, who moves with her family from Bogotá, Colombia, to New Jersey. Engel brings Sabina's family and culture to life with a narrative style reminiscent of Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao . . . Vivid, memorable . . . An exceptionally promising debut." --The Plain Dealer… (more)
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Showing 3 of 3
Sparse, raw. Engel can be succinct because her word choice is expert. I loved Sabina's imperfections, her doubt, her confusion, her humanness. Engel is one of a new generation ushering in the literary tradition of American coming of age protagonists with one foot still in another place and a stained America. I read this book during the same period as I listened to T Kira Madden narrate her own memoir and the crossover was magical. What may have seemed like a particular experience in an earlier decade, is becoming universal with writers like Engel are giving readers insight into the experience. Grateful for this book. ( )
  JeanneBlasberg | Apr 30, 2019 |
Linked short stories about Columbian girl growing up in New Jersey. Narrative voice is cool, edgy, casual but stories are tight as a drum. The crazy-ass thing is you feel like you've known this girl - she was in your class, worked in your office, hung out at the same bar.

Not multi-culti or even that literary, just gold gets-under-your-skin fiction.

( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
Each story is a snippet of Sabina's life as a child, teenager, and young woman, living in various parts of America as an immigrant with a fractured family and a string of love interests. Engel writes each story with such honesty, showing how we all lose our way in life, and the moments that define us, no matter how big or small the moment starts off as.

In Lucho, Sabina is an outcast in town with her uncle on trial and she falls in love for the first time with a rebellious boy, but doesn't realize how strong her feelings are until it's too late.

In "Green" Engel switches to second person, where Sabina finds out that the girl who tortured her in high school died due to anorexia, and Sabina flashes back to the moments after graduation when her bully reached out to her and Sabina blew her off.

In "Vida" Sabina befriends a former Colombian beauty queen who gets tricked into working at a brothel when she comes to America. Many of these stories illustrate major losses in Sabina's life, from friends, homes, jobs, boyfriends, and family members.

My Favorite Piece: "Desaliento" I'm a sucker for unhappy endings, or even endings that don't tie up in a perfect bow, and this piece goes above and beyond. It's about Sabina's relationship with Diego, an illegal immigrant she meets in Miami, who becomes her best friend/pseudo boyfriend. It's about them falling in love, but not crossing the line physically - their secret relationship that no one really sees or understands, not even by Sabina most of the time.

Sabina experiences many secret boyfriends/almost boyfriends and surrounds herself with other people drifting along in life, not really fitting in or having a stable home, and that's a feeling I took away from this collection. Engel effortlessly weaves in and out of various periods in Sabina's life, different relationships, and multiple landscapes in Miami, Colombia, New Jersey, and New York. You relate to the character of Sabina right away, how she falls for the wrong guys, her fractured relationships with her family, and her many mistakes, and how, because of her culture, family, ethnicity, etc, Sabina never fits in to one place.

But enough about my opinion - if I keep going on I'll summarize the whole book, and that's not the way to discover Patricia Engel. 5/5 ( )
  ShortStorySlore | Apr 17, 2011 |
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A New York Times Notable Book, an NPR Best Debut of the Year, and a PEN/Hemingway finalist.   These linked stories follow Sabina as she navigates her shifting identity as a daughter of the Colombian diaspora, and struggles to find her place within and beyond the net of her strong, protective, but embattled family.   In "Lucho," Sabina's family--already "foreigners in a town of blancos"--is shunned by the community when a relative commits an unspeakable act of violence, but she is in turn befriended by the town bad boy, who has a secret of his own. In "Desaliento," Sabina surrounds herself with other young drifters who spend their time looking for love and then fleeing from it--until reality catches up with one of them. And in "Vida," the urgency of Sabina's self-imposed exile in Miami fades when she meets an enigmatic Colombian woman with a tragic past.   "Vida calls to mind some of the best fiction from recent years. Like Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge, Engel uses stories about connected characters to illuminate her main subject, in this case Sabina, who moves with her family from Bogotá, Colombia, to New Jersey. Engel brings Sabina's family and culture to life with a narrative style reminiscent of Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao . . . Vivid, memorable . . . An exceptionally promising debut." --The Plain Dealer

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