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P.S.: Loteria (Paperback)

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In Lotería, the spellbinding literary debut by Mario Alberto Zambrano, a young girl tells the story of her family’s tragic demise using a deck of cards of the eponymous Latin American game of chance.

With her older sister Estrella in the ICU and her father in jail, eleven-year-old Luz Castillo has been taken into the custody of the state. Alone in her room, she retreats behind a wall of silence, writing in her journal and shuffling through a deck of lotería cards. Each of the cards’ colorful images–mermaids, bottles, spiders, death, and stars–sparks a random memory.

Pieced together, these snapshots bring into focus the joy and pain of the young girl’s life, and the events that led to her present situation. But just as the story becomes clear, a breathtaking twist changes everything.

Beautiful images of lotería cards are featured throughout this intricate and haunting novel.

• Author: Mario Alberto Zambrano • ISBN:9780062268556 • Format:Paperback • Publication Date:2014-07-01


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This is a powerful lit.

This is a powerful little book. I must admit that I think it was a bit over my head – it involves the slowly revealed tale of young Luz Castillo, currently in the custody of child protective services. Why? The reader doesn’t know yet – Luz refuses to talk. The bits and pieces of her life with her father, mother, sister and aunt are slowly told through her journal entries with the use of Loteria cards – a Mexican bingo type game. Each chapter (and I use that term very loosely as some are mere paragraphs long) is introduced with one of the cards and Luz writes a bit about her life. The story is told through the eyes and thoughts of this 11 year old girl and the reader soon learns the horror of her life in a very abusive household. Her parents came to the US from Mexico to find a better life but they did not find it. The story Luz writes is rife with alcohol, tradition and her Catholic upbringing. There is a fair bit of Spanish used within the story – some can be gleaned from context but without a knowledge of the language (mine is minimal – I took it in college) there is some googling to do to try and maintain the storyline. The reader does feel a touch lost at first – at least I did as you just don’t know what is going on. You are given bits of information that you need remember as each card is revealed. It all comes together in a very troubling story with an ending that I didn’t see coming. Despite my feeling that a lot of things were over my head it was a book that caused me much thought and one I’ll keep to perhaps read again. I suspect that I might sort more out upon a second reading when I’m knowledgeable of the outcome and I can then better understand the beginnings. It’s not a long read by any stretch of the imagination but it is most assuredly a thought provoking one.

I was surprised by Lot.

I was surprised by Lotería, it was a very short read and very good. The story is told from a girl’s diary and each entry is determined by what card from the loteria game is pulled. It goes back and forth from present time to the past showing what is happening in the center and why she ended up there. The characters were well defined and I feel like the author did a good job at telling a story of domestic abuse from a young girl’s point of view.

It is slowly revealed .

It is slowly revealed what has happened to eleven-year-old Luz María Castillo and her family through diary entries she makes based on Loteria cards she draws from a deck in Mario Alberto Zambrano’s debut novel Loteria. This is a tragic story told through the memories and in the voice of a young girl. The 53 chapters all open with the picture of a different Lotaria card. Luz is talking to God in her diary entries, as she contemplates her memories of her family. She is in state custody and not talking to anyone about her family. Very slowly the dynamics of her violent, dysfunctional family are reveal and we learn what was happening.The chapters are short and the memories Luz shares are not all synchronous, but instead are recollected fragments of various family events and occasions from her lifetme. We learn about her father’s drinking, the violence in her family, but the full extent of these occurrences isn’t revealed all at once. At the beginning we know something bad has happened, after all Luz is in state custody and not talking to anyone, but the total picture isn’t revealed until much later. Luz says of a counselor “Then she looks at me like I’m one of those stories you hear about on the ten o’çlock news.”(pg. 3)Later, when Luz writes, “She wouldn’t know what it was like. We all fought. We all hit each other.”(pg. 16) we begin to understand that this isn’t going to be an easy story.At the beginning of the novel you may feel a bit of disconnect with the story simply because you don’t have even a partial picture of what is going on, but stay with it. Luz lets us know that she’s cautious and not speaking to anyone when she says,”I keep my mouth shut because I don’t know the rules of the game.”(pg. 17) As she deals out the Lotaria cards for her own private game and writes about her life in her diary/journal, we understand the environment of violence and alcoholism that gave birth to her cautious nature.The narrative, in English, also contains many Spanish phrases and sentences that are smoothly incorporated into the text. Since the Loteria cards are pictured in the book, it really is a much shorter novel than the page numbers would indicate. Zambrano has done an excellent job capturing the voice of this eleven year old girl in epistolary form while exploring the dark side of a very dysfunctional family.Highly recommendedDisclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher and TLC for review purposes.

The backstory: Loteria.

The backstory: Loteria is the first novel by Mario Alberto Zambrano. The basics: 11-year-old Luz slowly fill the reader in on her life and family by journaling based on Loteria cards, a Mexican version of bingo that uses images rather than numbers. My thoughts: Loteria is a complicated little novel. I say little because although it has 288 pages, I read it in about two hours, and I am not that fast of a reader. There are many short chapters and each one begins with a full-page image of a mostly relevant Loteria card. For much of the first half of this novel, I was confused. Zambrano doesn’t introduce the reader to the story; he throws you right in. You have no context. Several times I found myself flipping to the publisher’s description and wondering “did I miss that?” The more I read, however, the more details fall into place and Luz’s writing makes more sense. I was glad I saved this novel for the airplane, as it was perfect to read in a couple of sittings over the course of an afternoon. There is a rich detail to this novel. As I was reading, I didn’t know which details to savor or which were important. Consequently, I tried to hold as many in my brain as I could to try to make sense of the story. Because I had no context to Luz’s life and little idea who she was, where she was, or what was happening, I had a hard time getting invested. I continued to read with a sense of urgency, and Zambrano manages to build to a somewhat satisfying conclusion. After I turned the last page, however, I couldn’t shake the feeling this novel would be better as a short story. There’s a fascinating climax, but because I never felt I knew enough about Luz to really be invested in her story, the ending, as good as it was, left me feeling much of the novel was unnecessary. It didn’t enrich the heart of the story. It’s worth noting that Zambrano also infuses a fair amount of conversational Spanish. I know enough to figure out those parts, but it might add to the confusion for some readers. The verdict: Loteria is a literary mystery of sorts. The reader must use the scattered clues left in Luz’s journal to decipher who and what she is. While the climax is well done, this novel ultimately left me wanting either more–the perspectives of other characters too–or less of it

The book is narrated b.

The book is narrated by a young girl and the style of writing seems appropriate to that point of view. It is told in a short story format, looking back on past events and slowly unfolding the story of the narrators situation in the present. The book follows themes of family and Mexican-American culture, while delving into some heavy topics. It is a very fast read with some Spanglish sprinkled throughout. I enjoyed it and would recommend it.

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