“A taut, fraught, look at tragedy, its aftermath, and the stories we tell ourselves to survive. With suspense, dread, and always the possibility for redemption, we watch as Zambrano flips the cards of chance and fate.” — Justin Torres, author of We The Animals
In Lotería, the spellbinding literary debut by Mario Alberto Zambrano, a young girl tells the story of her family’s tragic demise using a deck of cards of the eponymous Latin American game of chance.
With her older sister Estrella in the ICU and her father in jail, eleven-year-old Luz Castillo has been taken into the custody of the state. Alone in her room, she retreats behind a wall of silence, writing in her journal and shuffling through a deck of lotería cards. Each of the cards’ colorful images—mermaids, bottles, spiders, death, and stars—sparks a random memory.
Pieced together, these snapshots bring into focus the joy and pain of the young girl’s life, and the events that led to her present situation. But just as the story becomes clear, a breathtaking twist changes everything.
By turns affecting and inspiring, Lotería is a powerful novel that reminds us of the importance of remembering, even when we are trying to forget.
Beautiful images of lotería cards are featured throughout this intricate and haunting novel.
Loter a is the card-based Mexican variant of bingo and, in the hands of Zambrano, it's a deck stacked with narrative possibilities. Following her mother's disappearance and the arrest of her father, 11-year-old Luz Mar a Castillo dwells in the netherworld between state custody and return to Mexico, which her family left before she was born. But Luz is no stranger to in-between states, and, rendered mute by trauma, she addresses her history to God using the Loter a cards that are her sole possession. What follows are 53 chapters, each corresponding to a pictograph beginning with "La Ara a" (the spider) and ending with "La Rana" (the frog). The accompanying sketches assemble Luz's fractious family life in equally jagged fragments, some tender as "La Dama" (the lady), others deadly as "El Alac n" (the scorpion). The two central figures in Luz's recollections are her Pap , a tortured alcoholic who terrorizes his family, and her older sister Estrella, who pays a steep price for defying her father. And yet Luz's strongest memories are of the Mexican border town where she vacations, mariachi music, fireworks, and the roses in her yard. From these, Zambrano coaxes a language that straddles pictures and words, Spanish and English. An intriguing debut and an elegiac, miniature entry in the literature of Latin American diaspora that will break your heart.