Sylvester’s second novel interweaves past and present, America and Mexico into the legacy of a family divided by its own stories.
The day of her wedding, Isabel meets her new husband's father’s ghost. Omar is trying to repair the damage he left his son, Martin, and wife, Elda, by persuading Isabel to give him a chance to work toward redemption. The novel treats the appearances of Omar throughout the story with a straightforwardness that both boosts his apparition’s legitimacy and also reveals the weakness in the book, which is a sort of flat tone that belies the moving family narratives. From the wedding day forward, Isabel is met by Omar on the Day of the Dead. The book transitions smoothly from past to present, and Sylvester is in complete control of her story. She gradually documents the original sin that traces trauma throughout the family legacy, revealing the battles and scars that Elda in particular bears, having immigrated illegally in the 1980s with Omar. Ultimately the appearance of Eduardo, Martin’s cousin, brings the past into the present and provides another point of view on Omar. Hospitalizations, rape, incarceration, and marital stress push and pull Isabel as she slowly learns to understand Martin’s family history. The book starts and ends powerfully but struggles in the middle to meet the dynamic needs of its story.
A forceful record of migration within a family and the dangers and triumphs of our undocumented population.