Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Review: VIDA by Patricia Engel

Fresh, accomplished, and fearless, Vida marks the debut of Patricia Engel, a young author of immense talent and promise. Vida follows a single narrator, Sabina, as she navigates her shifting identity as a daughter of the Colombian diaspora and struggles to find her place within and beyond the net of her strong, protective, but embattled family.

In “Lucho,” Sabina’s family—already “foreigners in a town of blancos”—is shunned by the community when a relative commits an unspeakable act of violence, but she is in turn befriended by the town bad boy who has a secret of his own; in “Desaliento,” Sabina surrounds herself with other young drifters who spend their time looking for love and then fleeing from it—until reality catches up with one of them; and in “Vida,” the urgency of Sabina’s self-imposed exile in Miami fades when she meets an enigmatic Colombian woman with a tragic past.

Patricia Engel maps landscapes both actual and interior in this stunning debut, and the constant throughout is Sabina—serious, witty, alternately cautious and reckless, open to transformation yet skeptical of its lasting power. Infused by a hard-won, edgy wisdom, Vida introduces a sensational new literary voice.
Reviewed by: Sandra
Rating: 4 stars

Review: Patricia Engel’s debut book was wonderful. Her main character, Sabina, was smart, witty, and real; she often referred to herself as a “late bloomer.”

These are stories of a girl’s coming-of-age from childhood to adulthood (although not necessarily in that order) that trek through the hurdles revolving her family, friends, neighbors, and her ethnic identity.

Living in a community shunned by “blancos” makes life a little lonely for Sabina in “Lucho.” In “Refuge,” Sabina must hide from the wreckage of the 9/11 aftermath while pondering the fact that she “cheated,” that she should’ve been in that building with all those victims if she had only gone to work that day. And, in “Vida,” Sabina befriends a prostitute that she can’t help but be fascinated by.

Full of vivid and lively descriptions like “your skin looks like diarrhea.” (47) I couldn’t help but laugh at that one. “Death is a huge aphrodisiac.” (35) Interesting how you always want people when they’re dead –they are the “ungettable” get.

Engel has a way of engaging the reader with her candid humor and elegant prose. Her unique writing style of broken sentences was so oddly poetic –yet it all seemed to work.

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