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
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Length: 288 pages
Publication date: July 2, 2013
Source: publisher via TLC Book Tours
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Loteria from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)
Want more? Stop by other tour stops, visit Mario Alberto Zambrano's website, and like him on Facebook.
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