Book Quote:

“No. Not that work. Soul work,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “Spirit is glad you are here. This is a start,” he said tapping the table. “You need to look to family for the answers you really want. There is an old woman, she is surrounded by many children,” he said.

An image of Grandma Segovia, seated and surrounded by children flashed through my mind. The children were reaching for her, hands outstretched. My grandmother looked tired, I saw it in her eyes. She looked at me as if asking for my help. She seemed sad. The sense that I knew how she felt startled me. I wondered where it had come from and what kind of help I could possibly give her.

Book Review:

Review by Katherine Petersen (MAY 29, 2010)

Nothing has gone right for Gabrielle Segovia in a while. Frustrated with her academic job, slowly becoming more and more estranged from her husband and despondent after three miscarriages, everything comes to a head when after too much alcohol at a New Orleans nightclub, she picks up a sexy scientist attending the same conference and might have done more than kiss him if her stomach hadn’t propelled her to the bathroom instead. On a lark, she participates in a reading at Marie Laveau’s shop that will change her life. Mr. John, the reader, tells her that her husband has a surprise for her, her father should stay away from ladders, someone at her university wants to steal her work and that she needs to turn to her family for answers.

Skeptical to the core, she’s a scientist after all, Gabi is startled into the beginnings of belief more than anything else. Her husband, Benito, has cut his hair and her father fell from a ladder and hurt his head. So, Gabi makes the call to her Latina family in Miami that will set her on a course of exploring the religion called Santeria and on a journey of self-discovery as well.

Santeria has roots in both Africa and Cuba. Many West African slaves developed the religion, giving names of their gods and goddesses, called orishas, to the Catholic saints to whom they were allowed to pray. Lazo gives a good introduction to the basics of the religion in her novel, and those with an interest in beliefs and religions will find it fascinating and search for the titles in her bibliography to further their research.

Gabrielle has spent her whole life trying to be normal. Raised in Texas, she learned Spanish in high school, not from family, and her best friend, Patricia, teases her about revoking her Latina club card. Her insecurities at first make her scared of believing but also terrified that someone might find out. She’s afraid people will think of her differently, when in reality, the question is how she thinks of herself. I found myself frustrated with her insecurities a bit but had to remind myself that, unlike this reader for most things, some people care what others think about their beliefs or actions. Many people face similar feelings, albeit in different situations, and will relate to and empathize with Gabi’s fear of trying something new, taking a risk. For Gabrielle, her desperation to have a child, which her family believes the religion will help, gives her the impetus to move forward.

Lazo does a nice job of showing us Gabi’s feelings and teaching valuable information while still moving the story forward. It’s a story about the strength of friendship, love, belief and commitment. Lazo uses a lot of Spanish, although it’s translated afterwards which distracted me a little, and I found it easier to read dialogue when it was explained before the people spoke in Spanish. Lazo includes a strong supporting cast especially with Patricia, her Aunt Mayte and niece, Bella. Overall, it’s an enjoyable read in which we root for the main character and learn the basics of Santeria as well.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 15 readers
PUBLISHER: Thomas Dunne Books; First Edition edition (October 14, 2008)
REVIEWER: Katherine Petersen
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: More Santeria in fiction:

The Sugar Cage by Connie May Fowler

The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson


May 29, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Debut Novel, Latin American/Caribbean

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