9.27.2023 | Wednesday

Family Lore

category: Book Reviews
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Family Loretitle: Family Lore
author: Elizabeth Acevedo
published: 1 August 2023
publisher: Ecco
genre(s): magical realism
pages: 368
source: Book of the Month
format: hardcover
buy/shelve it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

rating: five-stars

the blurb

From bestselling, National Book Award-winning author Elizabeth Acevedo comes her first novel for adults, the story of one Dominican-American family told through the voices of its women as they await a gathering that will forever change their lives.

Flor has a gift: she can predict, to the day, when someone will die. So when she decides she wants a living wake--a party to bring her family and community together to celebrate the long life she's led--her sisters are surprised. Has Flor forseen her own death, or someone else's? Does she have other motives? She refuses to tell her sisters, Matilde, Pastora, and Camila.

But Flor isn't the only person with secrets. Matilde has tried for decades to cover the extent of her husband's infidelity, but she must now confront the true state of her marriage. Pastora is typically the most reserved sister, but Flor's wake motivates this driven woman to solve her sibling's problems. Camila is the youngest sibling, and often the forgotten one, but she's decided she no longer wants to be taken for granted.

And the next generation, cousins Ona and Yadi, face tumult of their own: Yadi is reuniting with her first love, who was imprisoned when they were both still kids; Ona is married for years and attempting to conceive. Ona must decide whether it's worth it to keep trying--to have a child, and the anthropology research that's begun to feel lackluster.

Spanning the three days prior to the wake, Family Lore traces the lives of each of the Marte women, weaving together past and present, Santo Domingo and New York City. Told with Elizabeth Acevedo's inimitable and incandescent voice, this is an indelible portrait of sisters and cousins, aunts and nieces--one family's journey through their history, helping them better navigate all that is to come.


  • my review
  • a few notes

This book was more than a good read; it was an experience. It weaves together the stories of the Marte sisters, as well as those of their daughters. The women of the family have subtle, often odd, magical gifts, that they can wield in different ways. The book opens and closes with Flor, who has had premonitory visions of death since she was a child. After watching a documentary about the subject, she decides to throw herself a living wake, feeling a soul-deep desire to have this moment with her family during life rather than death.

The author has created a beautiful tapestry with these women, their stories feeling real, even with the magical realism of their world. There is so much emotion to be felt as the women recount moments in their lives, the way these moments shaped their relationships, their futures, their perspectives. The book touches on themes of sisterhood, womenhood, and motherhood within a multigenerational Dominican/Dominican-American family. It also explores the cultural differences between the generations, how traditions change and how they stay the same.

It was a beautiful read that I would recommend to everyone!

content warning: ❗death, infidelity, pregnancy❗

POV: multiple, 1st/3rd person
keywords/phrases: magic, family, lore, trauma
cover notes: gorgeous

other notes:

  • There is a lot of Spanish throughout the novel. It adds a layer of texture and culture throughout that I love and appreciate, but it can be hard sometimes to translate for non-Spanish speakers as there are few contextual clues for the meanings. But the story is so beautiful that it is definitely worth the effort!
  • The story is told from multiple POVs, with a large cast of characters. But there is a list of characters and brief descriptions at the beginning that is perfect for referencing.
  • The writing style/format has some experimental aspects that can be a little confusing. Once I figured out the key to the formatting, it was easy to understand. It was well worth the learning curve!

About Elizabeth Acevedo

ELIZABETH ACEVEDO is a New York Times bestselling author of The Poet X, With the Fire on High, and Clap When You Land. Her critically-acclaimed debut novel, The Poet X, won the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. She is also the recipient of the Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Fiction, the CILIP Carnegie Medal, and the Boston Globe-Hornbook Award. Additionally, she was honored with the 2019 Pure Belpré Author Award for celebrating, affirming, and portraying Latinx culture and experience.

Her books include, Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths (YesYes 2016), The Poet X (HarperCollins, 2018), & With The Fire On High (HarperCollins, 2019), and Clap When You Land (HarperCollins, 2020).

She holds a BA in Performing Arts from The George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. Acevedo has been a fellow of Cave Canem, Cantomundo, and a participant in the Callaloo Writer’s Workshops. She is a National Poetry Slam Champion, and resides in Washington, DC with her love.

Rating Report
plot
five-stars
characters
five-stars
writing
five-stars
pacing
five-stars
Overall: five-stars

reading challenges:

  • 2023 Alphabet Soup: Author Edition Reading Challenge
  • 2023 PopSugar Reading Challenge
::spread the love::

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