Marina Lucero reads the Dalai Lama, ponders Gandhi and yearns for inner peace. What she has is a challenging and needy family and a demanding and clueless set of friends.
Thirty-something Marina, a San Fernando Valley schoolteacher, had a mother who joined a Carmelite cloister when Marina was a child and a father who drank. Marina remains a bit resentful about her childhood, at least when her extended Hispanic family allows her time to think about it. There's older sister Della and her aimless dyslexic son Kiko. There's younger sister Xochi and her hapless sometime boyfriend Reggie. Then there is Rudy, Marina's former boyfriend, who thinks a failed relationship should provide fringe benefits. Marina does love Rudy's daughter, Letty, whom Marina mothered into adulthood. Letty's new baby, little Rudy, is hospitalized and mortally ill. Marina must rush to the aid of Letty and her husband, Miguel, a recovering drug addict, because that's what Marina does. She is a motherly caretaker, a woman constantly dancing between fatigue and self-imposed obligation. The book finds Marina teaching summer school, coping with Kiko and Reggie, both living on her couches, and providing intermittent refuge for Carlotta, her sweet next-door neighbor who is a punching bag for her out-of-work husband. Little Rudy dies, Letty attempts suicide, Carlotta is knocked into a hospital bed by her husband and Rudy demands that Marina give a false legal deposition so that his friend, Nestor, a Santeria priest, a voodoo babalawo, can escape child support payments. While dealing with these "hungry spirits," Marina generates romantic sparks with Carlos Lozano, an attractive and intelligent art teacher, and Arturo Ortiz, a nervous and engaging young doctor finishing his residency. López (Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories, 2009, etc.) imagines believable characters and observes their world with literary insight.
An entertaining appreciation of one woman's journey, sometimes ribald and funny, sometimes ironic and self-deprecating.