BOOK TOUR REVIEW: Loteria by Mario Alberto Zambrano
by Mario Alberto Zambrano
Prepare to be enthralled by this lyrical, achingly human debut novel about a young girl’s remarkable resilience in the face of loss. Struggling to cope as her family falls apart, eleven-year-old Luz María Castillo retreats into her beloved set of Lotería cards—a Mexican game featuring riddles and vibrant images. Each card represents a different memory, and as Luz shuffles through the deck, she weaves her recollections into a compelling story of love, loyalty, tragedy, and hope.
By turns affecting and inspiring, Lotería is a powerful novel that heralds the arrival of an outstanding new writer, one who reminds us of the importance of remembering, even when we are trying to forget.
MY THOUGHTS: 3 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
Luz is an 11 year old Mexican American girl who has been taken from her home after suffering an unspeakable tragedy. While she’s not yet ready to speak to anyone who wants to help her, she’s expressing herself in the way she feels most comfortable. Through the use of a familiar deck of Loteria cards, Luz reveals the sad tale of her family through the eyes of a child.
I am of Mexican American heritage on my father’s side, and I played Loteria as a child. It’s a pretty fun game for all ages, but the author has used the cards in his novel for a decidedly more dark purpose.
Luz’s family consists of an alcoholic, abusive father, a coldly distant mother, and an older sister who most of the time can’t be bothered with her. Luz is often left to her own devices, and she’s quite feisty so more often than not this leads to trouble. Luz’s family is broken, but being so young she doesn’t understand the intricacies of what is going on; she just knows something is wrong but she can’t pinpoint that her family is different from everyone else’s.
Seeing this tale unfold through the eyes of someone so young is what makes it even more heartbreaking. Luz sees so much go on in between her parents, her sister, and even herself, but to her all the abuse that happens in her family is normal–just what they do. This is perhaps the saddest thing of all. It’s also frustrating that there were family members who could have helped but decided instead to turn a blind eye.
The story did unfold a bit too slowly for me, and there were sometimes chapters that seemed to have no relevance to the plot at all. I do commend the author for finding such a unique and culturally relevant way to tell Luz’s story. The best way to read this novel is to not go in expecting anything, and it will surprise you.
About the Author
Mario Alberto Zambrano was a Riggio Honors Fellow at the New School and recently completed his MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop as an Iowa Arts Fellow. He is a recipient of the John C. Schupes Fellowship for Excellence in Fiction. Lotería is his first novel.