A uniquely dark, coming-of-age novel ripe with magical realism, music, sorcery and redemption, with sweeping narrative from the author of Bodega Dreams.
(English edition: Taína, by Ernesto Quiñonez / 9781984897480 [Vintage Books, 9/17/2019])
When Julio, a young Puerto Rican-Ecuadorian boy in Spanish Harlem, hears that Taina, a fifteen-year-old girl from his church, is pregnant, and that both mother and daughter insist that she is a virgin, he decides to believe them.
Ridiculed for his naiveté, Julio begins to feel like even more of a misfit than he’s always felt. His staunch yet unrequited loyalty to Taina soon unleashes a whirlpool of emotions that bring Julio to question his parents, his religion, and even the basic building blocks of modern science (who’s to say Taina’s baby’s conception wasn’t indeed a mystical, scientific miracle?) He finds himself willing to uproot everything he once believed in, and all for the sake of his fervent devotion to the young Puerto Rican girl.
Yet the lengths Julio goes to to defend Taina’s purity will thrust him into the girl’s murky past. In the midst of it all, he meets Taina’s uncle, ＂El Vejigante＂, an ex-con who claims that, in order to get closer to the immaculate Taina, Julio must provide financial support to help the future young mother. Dubious but determined, and following the ex-con’s instructions, Julio gets entangled in a web of lies and stealing (dogs, for example, from Upper East Siders who will pay hefty rewards to have them returned.) He finally comes face-to-face with Taina, whose mother keeps locked inside their apartment in the projects, but not without bringing his loved ones into his chaotic love affair, and uncovering a family secret that will not leave him unscathed. Taína is a sweeping story that delivers a subtle yet poignant critique of Latino cultural norms and society, disguised within an absorbing, magical narrative.