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Where There Was Fire (Hardcover)
A lush and lyrical debut novel about a Costa Rican family wrestling with a deadly secret, from rising literary star John Manuel Arias
Costa Rica, 1968. When a lethal fire erupts at the American Fruit Company’s most lucrative banana plantation burning all evidence of a massive cover-up, the future of Teresa Cepeda Valverde’s family is changed forever.
Now, twenty-seven years later, Teresa and her daughter Lyra are still picking up the pieces. Lyra wants nothing to do with Teresa, but is desperate to find out what happened to her family that fateful night. Teresa, haunted by a missing husband and the bitter ghost of her mother, Amarga, is unable to reconcile the past. What unfolds is a story of a mother and daughter trying to forgive what they do not yet understand, and the mystery at the heart of one family’s rupture, steeped in machismo, jealousy, labor uprisings, and the havoc wreaked by banana plantations in Central America.
Brimming with ancestral spirits, omens, and the anthropomorphic forces of nature, John Manuel Arias weaves a brilliant tapestry of love, loss, secrets, and redemption.
About the Author
John Manuel Arias is a queer, Costa Rican-American poet and writer. He is a Canto Mundo fellow & alumnus of the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop. His prose and poetry have been published in PANK, The Rumpus, F(r)iction, Joyland Magazine, and Akashic Books. He has lived in Washington D.C., Brooklyn New York, and in San José, Costa Rica with his grandmother and four ghosts. Where There Was Fire is his debut novel.
"An arresting tale of love, regret, and redemption. John Manuel Arias offers a searing look into the legacy
of American agribusiness in Costa Rica and masterfully tells the story of a family fighting to put itself back together in the wake of unimaginable loss. As poetic as it is powerful, Where There Was Fire burns with rage and grief, and most of all, hope." —Jenny Tinghui Zhang, author of Four Treasures of the Sky
"A sweeping portrait of a Costa Rican family that has the energy of a speeding train. Each sentence that John Manuel Arias writes carries the juice of great gossip, the lyricism of a favorite poem, and the blood of forgotten history. I will never forget this book." —Melissa Lozada-Oliva, author of Dreaming of You