Publishers Weekly Review
After Carlito Castillo, on Florida's death row for tossing his girlfriend's infant daughter off a bridge, commits suicide, his sister, Reina, a manicurist, abandons her weekly prison vigil and moves from Miami to the Florida Keys. She wants to disappear, to process her loss and dissect her brother's actions, yet she quickly befriends Nesto, a Cuban exile. She learns of Nesto's own jail-like life in Cuba, and about the family he left behind and continues to support. Before long, the two become inseparable, romance blossoms, and Nesto begins teaching Reina about Yemayá, orisha of the oceans, whom he claims Reina must appease in order to right her sibling's past. Now working in guest relations at a tourist dolphinarium, Reina uses Nesto's teachings to observe the park's confined dolphins, captives stolen from their natural habitat for the amusement of humans, and she begins a journey of self-discovery and reflection, developing a plan that will bring one of Yemayá's children back to the open sea. Engel (Vida) has written a thought-provoking novel about different types of prisons, including Carlito's physical imprisonment and Reina's mental and internal incarceration. The author writes with vivid language, building a world of equal parts misery and hope. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Booklist Review
*Starred Review* The ocean exerts a dark influence on Reina Castillo's family. After all, it was into the murky waters of the Atlantic that her brother, Carlito, tossed his infant child, a crime that lands him on death row in Florida. Since their mother has cut off all ties with Carlito, Reina feels a crushing burden of guilt and compassion and religiously visits her brother every weekend. When Carlito eventually dies, Reina, a Cartegena native, sets off to reinvent her life on an island at the very edge of the Florida Keys. There, she meets a Cuban immigrant, Nesto Cadena, who views the ocean as succor, a conduit that will reunite him with his estranged family. A couple of digressing plot points notwithstanding, Engel's (It's Not Love, It's Just Paris, 2013) bawdy novel, peppered with fantastical, mythical tales and vivid descriptions of the saturated tropics, is much like its central characters, a Nuevo mundo alchemy of distilled African Spaniard Indian Asian and Arab blood . . . in varying mixtures. In a novel that is vitally relevant today when the word refugee has such loaded connotations, Engel delivers a pulsating, occasionally rambling, and deeply introspective take on how family, love, and guilt can both chain us together and set us free.--Apte, Poornima Copyright 2016 Booklist