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In a modern magical realist style all his own Derek Palacio's debut novel is a brilliant story.
It's hard to know what to expect from a debut novel, though Palacio has produced short stories and a novella in the past, so he's no novice. This debut novel blew my mind.
Right from the first sentences I was aware this was going to be a good one. I'd seen reviews elsewhere giving high star ratings but the reviews suggesting there were faults. I kept waiting for something to go wrong - nothing ever did. It's a beautiful story and Palacio doesn't miss a beat.
The style is simple and I find it hard to put my finger on exactly what makes this book so great but the simple prose is part of it. Palacio's style follows in the steps of great Latin American magical realist authors before him, though this lands more on the realist side of the scale. If you've read and enjoyed magical realist authors in the past I'm confident you'll enjoy this one as well. It's a compact version of the style, not winding out into generations as some do, and it's set in a more modern era than most, beginning in the 1980s.
I also have a great deal of praise for William DeMerritt's narration. Spot on. It's always wonderful to have a truly great narrator paired with a truly great book. More than icing on a cake, the narrator can make or break a novel. DeMerritt makes it.
If you enjoy magical realism, if you enjoy literary fiction this is for you. Don't be put off if you don't usually read either of these categories. A story with a Cuban setting (it moves between the US & Cuba) is a rare find and if it piques your interest, dive right in. It's a very accessible novel and a highly enjoyable one.
This is one of my favourite reads of 2016.
If you're interested in some of my other favourites for this year I recommend Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vasquez, A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler, Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Denis-Benn, Hot Milk by Deborah Levy, What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell and The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney.
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