TRACES OF BLISS by Cecilia Velástegui


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Velástegui’s psychological thriller is a dark tale of angst and redemption spanning centuries.

The tale revolves around an eclectic set of people of a “certain age” and their hired caregivers. Claire, one of the caregivers treating the seniors, is also their massage therapist. When Claire starts using a new massage oil developed by her grandmother, the seniors begin experiencing strange visions that are actually flashbacks from the lives of their ancestors. (Velástegui posits the theory that memories travel through the blood and that, until they are resolved, they will continue haunting the living.) These curious visions invigorate the elderly bunch and inspire them to set out on individual quests of fulfillment that began long ago, in a distant past. While most of the caregivers are devoted to their wards’ best interests, caregiver Soledad sees the situation as a way to help herself. Soledad and Alma Ruiz, a wannabe caregiver and pathological liar, hatch a scheme to bilk the seniors by staging lucrative “memory retrieval reenactments.” To put the plan into motion, Alma ingratiates herself into the lives of the seniors and begins to tap into their wealth. It is only through the efforts of other well-meaning caregivers and the seniors themselves that the evil plot is foiled. The story jumps from present-day scenes to those of past centuries. Unfortunately, the scenes of the past are disjointed; they involve different characters from different times and are hard to connect to the main story. But Velástegui richly invokes the spirit of her South American heritage. The characters are all of Spanish or Latino descent and range from the lowest class of society to the highest. In one way or another, all are in search of their roots—the very essence of their souls. Velástegui sees to it that everyone finds what they are looking for, to the elation of most and the utter despair of others.

Though the book is at times difficult to follow, it is nevertheless a beautifully written story of love, loss and opportunity. 

Pub Date: March 24th, 2012
Page count: 246pp
Publisher: Libros Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
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