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WHEN TITO LOVED CLARA by Jon Michaud

WHEN TITO LOVED CLARA

By Jon Michaud

Pub Date: March 8th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-56512-949-8
Publisher: Algonquin

A youthful dalliance between the children of feuding Dominican immigrants has unexpected late-life repercussions when their paths cross again.

Abducted by her father and taken to New York where her stepmother abuses her and her domineering father closets her at home, Clara Lugo saw college as her ticket to freedom. Come the end of senior year, Clara, much to the consternation of Tito, vanishes. Tito, who has never married or progressed, still lives with his parents and entertains fantasies of family life. Tito’s day job as a mover takes him to the home of Clara’s high-school mentor, Ms. Almonte, who hires him. But when one of the movers steals a bangle, Tito makes it his personal mission to return the jewelry. The thief happens to be Clara’s sister’s ex-boyfriend as well as the father of Clara’s niece’s unborn child—just one of many circumstances that, at the time of Tito’s reappearance in her life, make Clara’s life Geraldo Rivera–complicated. Her sister, as yet unaware of the child’s paternity, has just left for the Dominican Republic, leaving her daughter with Clara. Clara herself is undergoing fertility procedures after she and Thomas fail to have a second child. Not only does Tito’s search for the bangle uncover Clara, but also Thomas’ infidelity. Colorful characters abound, but lengthy digressions on, for example, Thomas and Clara’s meeting in library school, Thomas's career as a librarian and Tito’s directionless man-child existence bleed the focus. The unwieldy plot never coheres and culminates in an implausible ending.

Stacked coincidences, elliptical chronology and uneven character development detract from a lively novel with themes centered on immigrant experience and identity.