In this “profound, daring” tale of loss and faith, a woman haunted by tragedy begins to find healing in the waters—and love—that surround her (San Francisco Chronicle).
Reina Castillo’s beloved brother has been sentenced to death for an unthinkable crime that shocked the community—and Reina secretly blames herself. Devastated and grieving, Reina moves to a quiet enclave in the Florida Keys seeking anonymity and a new start, and meets Nesto Cadena, a recently exiled Cuban awaiting the arrival of the children he left behind in Havana.
Inspired by Nesto’s love of the sea and capacity for faith, Reina comes to understand her own connections to the life-giving and destructive forces of the ocean that surrounds her, as well as its role in her family’s troubled history. Against a vibrant coastal backdrop that ranges from Miami to Cartagena, Colombia, author Patricia Engel delivers a profound and riveting Pan-American story of fractured souls finding solace and redemption in the beauty and power of the natural world—and in one another.
“This is a writer who understands that exile can be as much an emotional state as a geographical one, that the agony of leaving tugs against the agony of being left behind. . . . To immerse oneself in Engel’s prose is to surrender to a seductive embrace, a hypnotic beauty that mingles submersion with submission.” —The New York Times Book Review
After Carlito Castillo, on Florida's death row for tossing his girlfriend's infant daughter off a bridge, commits suicide, his sister, Reina, a manicurist, abandons her weekly prison vigil and moves from Miami to the Florida Keys. She wants to disappear, to process her loss and dissect her brother's actions, yet she quickly befriends Nesto, a Cuban exile. She learns of Nesto's own jail-like life in Cuba, and about the family he left behind and continues to support. Before long, the two become inseparable, romance blossoms, and Nesto begins teaching Reina about Yemay , orisha of the oceans, whom he claims Reina must appease in order to right her sibling's past. Now working in guest relations at a tourist dolphinarium, Reina uses Nesto's teachings to observe the park's confined dolphins, captives stolen from their natural habitat for the amusement of humans, and she begins a journey of self-discovery and reflection, developing a plan that will bring one of Yemay 's children back to the open sea. Engel (Vida) has written a thought-provoking novel about different types of prisons, including Carlito's physical imprisonment and Reina's mental and internal incarceration. The author writes with vivid language, building a world of equal parts misery and hope.