Cover Image: Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer

Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

A heartbreaking, beautifully written novel about grief and trauma. The use of magical realism really brought home the themes as the characters are haunted both literally and figuratively. The writing is almost too lovely for the subject matter.
Was this review helpful?
This one was a bit difficult for me, but I recognize its importance. The magical realism and descriptive language was moving.
Was this review helpful?
Excellent writing and great story. Pushes you to the brink then pulls you back. I enjoyed all of the characters and the lyrical writing.
Was this review helpful?
“Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer” is unlike anything I’ve read in a long time. It combines family, sorrow, sexual abuse, abandonment, ancestral trauma, memories, love and loyalty. Toss is some magical realism and exquisite, lyrical prose by Jamie Figueroa and you’ve got a winner!

At times, I didn’t know what I was reading. Was the mother dead? Was she a ghost? Who was the angel? And was the baby real? It was surreal, but worth the wait to see how the book ends. It’s short enough to read in a few hours to find out.

There are beautiful—often hidden—messages throughout. This makes it an excellent read for #ownvoices book clubs picks and English lit classes. One of the wonderful messages is this:

“Happiness, you should know, is just another way of remembering who you are…  Summon your strength. It is life coming for you. Your own future is coming for you, charging toward you with all its thundering force. Be ready.”

Many thanks to Catapult for the advanced reader copy of the book, via NetGalley. I appreciate this experience very much.
Was this review helpful?
Wow, you guys this one was a doozy. A lot of stuff going on, and yet it was very character driven.

This was a book about deep and complicated grief. Rafa and Rufina are brother and sister and live in Cuidad de Tres Hermanas, which is also a tourist destination. They are there in the aftermath of losing their mother, and each dealing with the grief in their own way.

This book was so uniquely written, with beautiful and interesting prose. The author took risks with this book in the style and situations. There were multiple parts of this book that left me uncomfortable and cringing. However, I think the relatability of the characters was really on point. They were each dealing with the grief of losing their mother in their own very different ways. 

We also get some of the mothers story as the book goes into the past and back to the present. The mother had an immigration story that left her traumatized and also was dealing with some mental illness. This of course impacted the brother and sister, as they were the ones to care for her. 

I don’t think this book is for everyone, but mostly because some of the situations could be triggering. I look forward to more of Jamie Figueroa’s work. 

This was also on R.O. Kwon’s list of 43 books by women of color released this year, which is initially how I found it. 

Lots of content warnings on this one.
Was this review helpful?
Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer is a wild read: full of magical realism and disparate parts that a reader has to trust will come together by the end. And the reader is rewarded. The story of the four title characters—brother; sister; mother, now dead but still a presence in the family home; explorer, long vanished; a transsexual angel; the shadow of a stillborn baby; a devoted policeman; a collective of elderly women, the Grandmothers of All; and whole herds of oblivious tourists—becomes immensely engaging as the novel progresses and the reader sees what's at stake for each character.

If you like original, rich fiction with a risk-taking style, you won't want to miss this title. There's nothing else out there like it.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher; the opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
<i> Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer</i> was a poignant read, beautifully written. Figueroa is a master with words. The pacing for me was a little bit off, as the POV alternates between the present and the past. The other characters used in the book such as the ghosts and the angel took me a while to get used to, and I think were abstract from the storyline. I couldn't get into the story because of the slow unfolding of information. The characters were a bit childlike in their nativity, way younger than then their actual ages. The magical elements throughout the book were beautifully done though. Even though the end was obvious I kept hoping for a different, more kind ending. I did enjoy Figeroa's writing and I would pick up something else by them.
Was this review helpful?
Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer by Jamie Figueroa is a deeply moving novel about the past and present trauma that indigenous people face. 

The rich, atmospheric story follows a brother and sister as they try to reckon with the loss of their mother. I was swept away into a world that is entirely different from my own. 
Figueroa's  writing and storytelling is courageous, poetic, and stark. All of the characters spoke to me in a direct, raw way striking my heart with grief, compassion, anger, and hope.

The story is layered with familial relationships that are knotted and woven with past traumas.
The main characters struggle to integrate the past with the present while seamlessly traversing between worlds as memories continuously unfold. 

Personal, cultural, and intergenerational healing is found in surprising ways. 
I highly recommend this debut novel. 

Thanks you NetGalley and Catapult for allowing me a first read of this beautiful novel in exchange for my honest review..
Was this review helpful?
As much as I wanted to like this one, it was ultimately a DNF for me.  I typically get about 1/3 of the way through a book before I decide to give up, but this wasn't the book for me.

2/5 Stars
Was this review helpful?
I usually love character heavy, plot lite books but I just couldn't quite keep up with this one. Broken into 3 sections for the 3 days of the weekend, I was most compelled by the Saturday section. After Friday was a slow start, the way that Saturday grabbed me, I was looking forward to the last third of the book. However, I feel like it lost its steam again, which is a little disappointing since the books is only just over 200 pages. I thought the characters were not as well developed as I would have hoped for a book that relied so much on flashbacks and everyday occurrences instead of a lot of action. A bit of a let down and ultimately, I feel like it was just okay.
Was this review helpful?
In this haunting debut novel about deep-seated trauma and grief, a sister attempts to hold back the wave of grief that threatens to wash away her one remaining family member. They live in a tourist town not unlike Taos, New Mexico. Its name: Ciudad de Tres Hermanas. The story takes place over the course of three days, but sweeps us back and forth in time, memory, and geography. Ghosts and angels populate the narrative, as do those blessed and/or haunted by these magically realistic characters. Author Jamie Figueroa writes as if possessed by these spirits herself; her language and style, gorgeous and fluid and striking. As in the captivating street performances that Rufina and Rafa are forced to deliver, Figueroa makes us spectators one moment, participants the next. It's amazing how she seamlessly weaves third-person omniscient point of view with second-person imperitive in some scenes.
Was this review helpful?
Poetic and beautiful, but so hard to read.  The despair and guilt washes over the page, engulfing the reader.  It's gorgeously written, which makes the brutality of the story hit that much harder.
Was this review helpful?
Told in the third person, this book felt more like someone describing a play to me than a story. I think this treatment, and my reaction to it, kept me somewhat distanced from the characters and the action. Instead of being in the story, I felt separated. But, that story almost felt like a fairy tale, though a grim one at best. Siblings are dealing with their mother's death while their own pasts swirl around them. It is murky and disturbing but somehow still beautiful and almost poetic in the way the story is told. The descriptions of the scenery and the many people who come through the story are exquisite. A story of love shrouded in a fog of grief. Perhaps that distance is there to protect the reader from the full force of the characters' emotions?
Was this review helpful?
I'm not sure what to make of this novel of two grief stricken siblings coping with the death of their mother and the way they are viewed by the tourists in their town.  Rafa is depressed, Rafina wants to save him.  There's an angel, there's some magical realism, there's some pointed pokes at tourists,  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  The writing is lovely but the plot didn't grab me as much as I'd hoped.  That could be my mood, of course, so suggest this one for fans of literary fiction.
Was this review helpful?
While this novel is short, it's very immersive and compelling and feels longer than its page length would suggest. The description does a fairly good job pointing out the mix of trauma and magical realism/fabulism blended in this narrative, but I would issue another content warning for discussions of child rape (in the past). It's a heavy read much of the time, but it's worthwhile.
Was this review helpful?
Half-siblings, Rufina, age 28  and Rafa, age 30, share their grief at their mothers death, but its worse for Rafa. He wants to end his life. Rufina makes a deal with him. If they can make enough money in their high desert town in the southwest entertaining tourists, Rafe has to promise to keep living and go look for what will make him happy. There are plenty of ghosts and memories to keep them company, including memories of their mother’s boyfriend, Explorer. There are lots of do-gooders wanting to help them, but all the good-hearted people do is slow down their goal of earning enough money in a week.  The characters at times leaped off the page, but what I enjoyed the most was the comments about the gringo tourists who seemingly patronize the local Latinos.  Figueroa’s deeply moving debut novel already has me looking forward to her next book.
Was this review helpful?
The novel is gorgeously written. I kept highlighting passages because they were so uniquely rendered. The story itself kept me at arm’s length by withholding information and describing horrific bleak circumstances in a way so beautiful that I became a bit detached from what I was reading. The brother and sister protagonists seem to act and think in ways much younger than their ages and I wasn’t sure if that was an artifact of the style if writing, or something I was meant to believe about them, that their bleak circumstances had left them childlike and helpless. Some of the magical elements were delightfully original. I think it would have worked better for me as a short story. I’m open to reading more from this author and I’m glad to have had the experience of reading something so unique even if it challenged me a little room much in the end to love it.
Was this review helpful?
“Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer” was beautifully written prose about a brother and sister dealing with the loss of their mother.  The story is a blend of fantasy and reality slowly disclosing the differences in their individual relationships with their mother and the traumas they’ve suffered.   The book was challenging to read as it intertwined real and imagined events.  It’s a complex story about grief and I struggled a bit while reading it.
Was this review helpful?
A heart wrenching book about grief and family. While a short novel, this is neither a light nor easy read. Figueroa’s writing feels more like a prose poem than novel.
Was this review helpful?
Though this book was short, it felt very long. The sentences were a long stream of conscious thoughts that ran on and on. I liked the story & characters but the writing really kept me from connecting with it. I wish it was written differently because I probably would’ve liked it more. 

Thanks so much for netgalley and the publisher for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?