Wednesday, July 3, 2013

book review: Loteria by Matio Alberto Zambrano

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

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.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

15 comments:

  1. I keep seeing this one pop up everywhere. Visually, I love it, though being throw in medias res might make me nuts!

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    1. The Loteria cards are definitely a highlight!

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  2. Hrmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm ... tempted, and very curious (I'm sad I missed being on the tour!) -- will add to my TBR and come back to this after I've read it. I suspect it's a book that benefits from chewing over with others who've read it!

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    1. Definitely! I'll be curious to hear your thoughts after you read it!

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  3. I always get a little annoyed by novels that try to be TOO literary, and end up leaving me unsatisfied as a result. This one kind of sounds like that. Sorry it wasn't amazing for you, but thanks for the frank review!

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    1. Kelly, that's a wonderful assessment!

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  4. It's on my TBR list, but I hope I like it a bit more than you.

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    1. I hope you like it more too, Diane. I'll be curious to read your thoughts!

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  5. Interesting. I've had pretty high expectations for this book because I've read a lot of positive reviews about it. Now, my expectations are a bit lower (which is a good thing)! Thanks for the honest review.

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    1. Vasilly--I know just what you mean about lower expectations being a good thing. I'll be curious to hear your thoughts!

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  6. I'm not sure about this book even though I like the premise and want to give it a try. But I have a poor record with books that can be confusing.

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    1. Aths--the premise is great. I wish the book had been a little better over all. Ah, well.

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  7. What do you think the author's purpose was in leaving the reader so in the dark at the beginning? I've read some books like that before and have found them frustrating at first but upon discovery of the purpose, delight in the ultimate effect.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this one.

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    1. Jen, I think the purpose was the pay off. The revelation is a good one, but I don't think it would have been nearly as powerful if the reader knew Luz's situation from the beginning.

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  8. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!