Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer

Catapult. Mar. 2021. 240p. ISBN 9781948226882. $25. F
DEBUT In Figueroa’s seductive, lyrically wrought debut, as much dreamscape as story, the mother of Rufina and Rafa has been dead for months but haunts them still at their house in Ciudad de Tres Hermanas. Though nearly 30 and world-traveled, Rafa was always held close by his mother and cannot imagine living without her, so 28-year-old Rufina makes him a bet. That weekend, if they can earn enough money performing in the plaza to leave town, he must embrace life. Otherwise, he can do as he pleases. In childhood, the siblings worked the plaza as part of a live installation devised by the Explorer, a charmer who insinuated himself into the family and wreaked havoc. Now, as clueless tourists trot by, Rafa exercises his special magic—reading meaning into shadows—and Rufina sings seductively, watched over by a ragged angel and a worshipful young policeman. She’s as troubled as Rafa, still imagining she has the baby lost long ago in childbirth. Family and ancestral history are bound tightly with immediate events as the weekend moves toward its fateful last hours.
VERDICT The narrative can get a little lost in the gorgeous, reflective language but remains an absorbing study of memory and grief.
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