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LOTERÍA by Mario Alberto  Zambrano

LOTERÍA

By Mario Alberto Zambrano

Pub Date: July 9th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-06-226854-9
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

A young Mexican-American girl recounts the heartbreaking dissolution of her entire family.

This debut novel from former professional ballet dancer Zambrano, written from the point of view of a tween girl who has inadvertently become a ward of the state, smacks a bit of experimental fiction, largely due to its deliberate construction. It is a journal written by 11-year-old Luz Castillo, who refuses to speak to others. Instead, she shuffles and reshuffles a deck of Lotería cards, a Latin American game of chance featuring 54 macabre representations of various objects or animals. With each flip of the card, Luz reveals some little memory, painstakingly rendered, about her family. It’s a slowly told tale delivered in short, ambiguous chapters. “I’m not a piece of news in the Chronicle she can just pick up and read,” Luz complains. “It’s not like that, not black and white. If anything it’s like a telenovela with a ranchera in the background playing so loud you can’t even hear your thoughts anymore.” Over time, Luz reveals the story of her deeply dysfunctional family—the mother that abandons her children and her Papi who drinks heavily and flies into such a rage over a sexual indiscretion that he breaks Luz’s arm. And then there is Estrella, Luz’s motherly older sister who lies at death’s door in the ICU of a local hospital, her fate even more uncertain than her little sister’s. The broken tale and imaginative first-person narration lend weight to this curious novel. It’s an impressive first step for an artist exploring a new medium.

A contemplative yet discordant collection of stories about where life’s scars originate.