Cover Image: Neruda on the Park

Neruda on the Park

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Member Reviews

Thank you, NetGalley, for an e-ARC of Neruda on the Park by Cleyvis Natera.
"Neruda on the Park" intricately paints a portrait of family, friendship, and ambition, skillfully weaving together the stories of Luz, Eusebia, and occasionally The Tounges. Through their perspectives, the novel delves into the essence of home and community, illuminating the sacrifices made to safeguard what is cherished most. With shocking revelations interspersed throughout, readers are drawn into a journey of self-discovery as the characters navigate the complexities of their lives and relationships, ultimately finding meaning in unexpected places.

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I wanted to love this book so much more than I ended up and I was really disappointed about that!

From the synopsis I wanted to read this so badly: takes place in NYC - a fictional neighborhood but those who know, know it's The Heights; gentrification; a Dominican Family. It has all the thigs that I usually gravitate towards. Family, community, immigration, magical realism!

But towards the middle, it kind of lost me. There was too much going on and I wish the focus would have just stayed on the gentrification.

I will definitely read more by this author, but this one lost me toward to the end.

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I really appreciated learning more about the immigrant experience of recent residents of Dominican Republic. Eusebia and Vladimir emigrated to the the US twenty years ago with a young daughter, Luz. Luz is now a lawyer while her parents are leaders in their New York community.

Everything seems to fall apart all at once, Luz is let go from her job, one that was very stressful with long hours, but that she felt defined her. Around the same time, her mother fell and hit her head. Eusebia didn't want to see a doctor so she lies about the headaches she is still experiencing. Then, the relationship between mother and daughter becomes very intense. How much is due to what both are going through and how much is because of Eusebia's health?

I really did enjoy the emphasis on the immigrant story and the descriptions of the community in which they lived. I wasn't as intrigued by the relationship between mother and daughter, it seemed to come out of nowhere and wasn't really resolved. And then there is the relationship between Luz and a man who was gentrifying their neighborhood. It was a weird, rather one-sided relationship.

I had more questions at the end, not a good feeling for the end of a book.

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My reading resolution for 2024 is to get caught on reviews. Starting as the oldest book on my Netgalley, I have started with a debut novel that taught me a lot about Dominican culture and how immigrants lives are impacted by the past and current issues.
Luz has a good job with a law firm. She has worked hard from the day she came to America without knowing any English. She wants to help her parents who have sacrificed so much. Her father wants to retire, build a dream house in the Dominican Republic and move back with her mother. Unfortunately, Luz is fired despite being an excellent lawyer.
Eusebia is Luz's mother who has made many close friends in the Nothar Park area of New York. The area is inhabited almost completely Dominicans. They love to have parties and gossip. Eusebia is a fabulous cook. The community is suddenly up in arms when they find out a luxury building is being constructed right across from their longtime apartments. They are being asked to move out by accepting a buyout. Eusebia is furious and begins to concoct schemes to halt the changes.
Luz and Eusebia have alternating chapters. Luz makes Eusebia even more angry when she begins a relationship with the man who is charge of the new luxury complex. Both of the women seem to have difficulties with what is real and what is dangerous hope. The Tongues are women who like to hang out at Nothar Park and know most gossip. They act as a type of a Greek Chorus.
This tale is sometimes hard to read and heart-wrenching. Overall, it's a book that will make the reader look at family dynamics and other relationships and how they change lives.
My takeaway, besides the plot, was learning the meaning of dique (look it up on Google), how bachata music is different from salsa and that I plan to find some arepa food from a nearby restaurant.
Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and author Cleyvis Natera for providing me a copy to read. I will try to read more of my NetGalley novels in a timely manner as I work through my back list

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I thought that this book was very insightful and thought that it was interesting to read. It's an unforgettable story about family and community. It was a great debut for this author.

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Intriguing debut novel that follows the divergent paths a Dominican family has taken in response to neighborhood gentrification. The messiness of family and relationships engaged me. The ending was not as I expected but fit the story and the feelings evoked in this reader. Thank you to Net Galley, the author, and Penguin Random House for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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"Neruda on the Park" asks the big question of what is a home? Is it a place, is it with the people you love, or is it a perfect combination of both? When faced with big changes in life (career change, eviction, illness), this mother-daughter duo learns a lot about themselves and each other.

I really enjoyed reading this story and found the writing to be engaging and easy. The characters were loveable (to an extent). I found the mother a little off at times but obviously in the end you learn why and it's heartbreaking. There were moments when I found the daughter selfish and naïve (like moving in with a man she barely knows and ignores her mother who is clearly struggling). But think the overall theme they learned was that change can be great - open new doors and lead to unexpected opportunities - but change is also hard and takes time to adjust.

The ending was ambiguous, which I always enjoy, and came to my own conclusion on Eusebia's ending.

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Such an unforgettable story about a community under siege and the power of family. Neruda on the Park explores a taut mother and daughter relationship as they begin to see each other as people. This novel is both fun and insightful.

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When gentrification comes to the (predominantly Dominican) NYC neighborhood where the Guerreros have lived for years, each member of the family decides to face it in different ways. Luz, having recently been let go from her high-profile law firm job, begins a later-in-life coming of age, rebelling against the bougie lifestyle she’s been living (the one her parents worked so hard to give her). Luz’s mother, Eusebia, hatches a plan with other neighborhood ladies to undermine the construction in ever more dangerous ways (threatening the safety not only of the project, but also themselves and the rest of the families in the neighborhood). Luz’s father, Vladimir, counts down the final months until his retirement, while secretly building a retirement home for himself and Eusebia in the DR. As things spiral for everyone involved, the finale comes in a dramatic and near-fatal rush.

Alright, like I said, I struggled to get into this novel. On the surface, it has a lot of promise, and addresses some really complex and important topics. Specifically, the rumination on gentrification, and then in this case how far would someone go to save their home (and what to do when it spirals out of your control), asked some tough questions in a really unique way that definitely made you think, as a reader. Plus, the look at where the lines of acceptability in skirting legality, and commentary on how they’re different for those with different amounts of money/power, is always important to examine.

I also appreciated how Natera incorporated the “finding yourself” concepts of what you are supposed to want/be in life and how that is measured as success, or not. Luz faces difficult choices on whether to give in and follow those expeditions or not; and if not, how and when do you break out/away? Related, the choices Luz faces between heritage and opportunity, and how she begins to ask if it’s always necessary for them to be mutually exclusive, feature highly. And the accumulation of past trauma that’s been tamped down so long that when it finally breaks, it’s terrible and horrible and so unforeseen/unexpected by everyone around you, even the closest (and how that builds directly into intergenerational trauma) is demonstrated with unmissable melodrama – the point *really* hits. These are universal questions, and ones that often come up thematically in first/second generation immigrant stories, and I feel that Natera did them justice.

However, I have to note that the depth with which Natera looks at these themes is presented in such a surprisingly uncomfortable way. Like, this was such an uncomfortable read. From Luz’s firing and job search and relationship with Hudson to Eusebia’s plans for “saving” the neighborhood – I had so many icky feelings while reading. And I do love that these characters got to be so authentically messy (as all humans are), but still, those were not the reading vibes I was in the mood for and it was tough to stick with it. There were just so many red flags everywhere, for so many characters, that got ignored until a point of dramatic no return.

There was a final piece of the story-puzzle here that was unexpected and also really one of the most unique aspects. Natera weaves all the abovementioned thematic threads together with the (terrifying) reality of TBIs/brain tumors. I’ll try not to give too many spoilers on this front, but it was interesting (and scary – I was tense for a lot of the time I was reading/listening to this book) witnessing how that can change personality, etc. And even more so, the consequences when combined with stress and family mental health history. Seeing this unfold from both internal and external perspectives was, actually, fascinating.

As you can see, there were so many things going for this book. Plus, the way it ended felt right to me. On all fronts. The power of community in creating and holding memory, while also forging something new, and the release of realizing that and then coming together with a purpose – in pain and joy – is cathartic and strong here. I loved the feeling I was left with. And yet… I just struggled with the kind of strange observational tone of the writing that was reminiscent of satire but not enough to make this anything other than a “normal” contemporary literary fiction. And honestly the pacing just felt so slow – the story seemed to drag and, while I understand that some “side plots” are necessary for world and character development, there was just so much I didn’t really understand the inclusion of. So, I respect the author, and what they created, but this book just wasn’t the right one for me.

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A heartfelt family drama about a family and their neighborhood. This is a lovely debut novel that I enjoyed very much. It is set in New York, so of course I wanted to read this, and the premise was very creative. A neighborhood tenet is told to either buy their units or take a buyout, and an elder of the community, Eusebia Guerrero, takes matters into her own hands via dangerous methods. Her daughter Luz is a rising attorney in a prominent law firm, and she is trying to maintain a lifestyle her parents worked hard to give her. She gets distracted by a romance with a white developer that works at the company her mother opposes. I enjoyed how both Eusebia and Luz worked through their issues, both personally and with each other, and while it did get a little extreme at times, overall this was a very well done debut.

I listened to this via audio and the narrators did a wonderful job, I was very glad I read it this way.

Thank you to Random House and PRH Audio for the copies to review.

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"Neruda on the Park" is a debut novel that seeks to capture the complexities of family dynamics, ambition, and the impact of encroaching gentrification.

The novel shines in its portrayal of community bonds and the complexities of pursuing dreams in a changing urban landscape. The author's ability to depict the nuances of cultural identity and the impact of gentrification on marginalized communities is commendable, making the story feel incredibly relevant and timely.

On the downside, its narrative is a bit scattered, with multiple storylines vying for attention. While the depth of character development is a strength, it can, at times, make the story feel somewhat disjointed and difficult to fully immerse oneself in.

"Neruda on the Park" is a thought-provoking and emotionally charged tale that tugs at the heartstrings while shedding light on the challenges faced by communities in the midst of gentrification. Although it may have some scattered moments that hinder complete captivation, this novel is a worthy addition to your reading list if you enjoy richly woven stories of love, family, and cultural identity,

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Loved this emotional coming into your own style family drama wrapped up in the struggles of a quickly gentrifying city. Natera paints a beautiful picture of a complicated family filled with love but also shame, obligation, secrets and mistrust. All families are complicated and Neruda on the Park really showcases the complicated dynamics that pull us in so many directions in the name of family and love in the complicated landscape of modern cities. Natera's use of gentrification as a central conflict fits seamlessly into the story without hitting the read over the head with obvious and pandering explanations of what's happening and why it's bad.

Heartfelt while also sharp and so well written I's highly recommend this book.

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At about 20% I thought I would give up, but hung in there. At 50%, I was hooked, but by then I noticed that the satellite stories were a detraction from the overarching story of a woman saving her neighborhood from gentrification.

Transformation is certainly a theme in this text. People transform, desires transform, communities transform.
Natera tackles poverty, brain drain from a community, the myth of the American dream, colorism, and that fraught landscape where the battles between mothers and daughters rage.

In the end Eusebia's sacrifice is her own daughter, but in doing so, the community is saved.

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Eusebia and Vladimir come to New York City from the Dominican Republic and their daughter, Luz, is a lawyer. The building next door is being demolished to make room for some upscale condos and then their building is turning into condos. Eusebia tries to fight back and it got strange. Then Luz is let go from her job and deciding what she wants to do.

I liked Vladimir but I didn't care for Luz or Eusebia. Eusebia felt that Luz was too good to cook and clean so Luz pretty much lived at home and was waited on. She was broke because she gave most of her paycheck and savings to her Dad who was building, in secret, a dream home to retire back home in the Dominican Republic. I didn't understand the relationships and wished for more development in the characters and the story.

This is a debut novel and I feel the author has a lot of potential and would love to read her future books.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Ballantine for providing me with a digital copy.

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Neruda on the park - Cleyvis Natera 

“Let us grow rooted in the love of all our homes, let us rejoice in our strength and never shy away from it, let our stories change the world with the power and beauty of our imagination.”

For almost twenty years the Guerrero family has lived in Northar Park, a predominant Dominican part of New York City.  The story, told from two points of view, The daughter, Luz and her mother, Eusebia. When a high rise development is being built in the neighborhood, Eusebia creates a plan to stop the construction of luxury condos.  Luz, on the other hand, starts a romance with a developer from the company trying to build the condos. 
How will Luz's new romance with the wealthy developer affect her future and her family life?

This is the first time I can't connect with the characters in a story, I feel like their behaviors were inconsistent and unpredictable, and I just couldn't feel the story like I usually do. I did enjoy the description of the food and the music, I believe this felt realistic and authentic.  I really wanted to love the story but I just couldn't. 

Thanks to Ballantine books & @netgalley for the ARC.

#bookstagram #bookstagrammer #netgalley #arcreader #arcreviewer #nerudainthepark

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Where is home? This is what is explored in this book. I was surprised by how engaged I became in this book. I thought it felt disjointed at first but it all came together.

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This book is everything I thought it would be. It was such a beautifully told story with heartbreak and raw human emotion.

I'll definitely be recommending this one to everybody that I know.

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On the very first page of Neruda on the Park, debut author Cleyvis Natera drops readers into the boom and crash of a demolition. Fractured brownstone, shattered glass. A wrecking ball, mid-swing. Change is coming to the fictional, predominantly-Dominican neighborhood of Nothar Park. An aged tenement building being torn down in New York City is a telltale sign that gentrification will soon sweep in. But is it a threat? It depends on who you ask.

Ask Eusebia Guerrero, an elder in the community, and she’d likely tell you the world is ending. She receives each construction blow in horror. With growing distress, she asks herself more than once, “How to fix this mess?”

Or ask Luz Guerrero, Eusebia’s daughter. A rising associate at a top Manhattan law firm, Luz seems ambivalent about her neighborhood being at the cusp of gentrification. She never felt like she belonged there, anyway.

“When they first arrived in this country, Eusebia had insisted Luz not forget their true home had been left behind, that this new place, with its hard ground and impossible language, was hostile,” Natera writes. “But over time, Eusebia had created an entire new world in it. Listening to her now, Luz marveled at the change, wondering exactly what it was about this place that had won her mother over.”

Luz claims to know how her neighborhood’s story ends – with change, yes, and yoga and endless mimosa brunch spots. But with Neruda on the Park, out on May 24, readers have no idea how this story will end, or could end, or should end. Natera brings us an intricate novel about a Dominican mother and daughter who step into markedly different paths when faced with gentrification. Fueled by anger and the fear of her community’s displacement, Eusebia concocts a crime ring to try to stop the luxury condo building from going up. And Luz – freshly-fired from her firm – finds herself in a sizzling romance with the white developer of the company her mother fervently opposes. This is a story about family, sacrifice, loyalty, the meaning of home, and how far one is willing to go to protect it.

Natera, herself born in the Dominican Republic before migrating to the United States at ten years old, wrote Neruda on the Park over the course of fifteen years. That she tended to this story for so long is evident by her gorgeous prose, the novel’s myriad of characters and the ways their lives interconnect, and the many pressures she layers onto Eusebia and Luz. In the background, we sympathize with Eusebia’s husband, Vladimir, who has been secretly plotting with Luz to build a dream home back in the Dominican Republic. His job as a police detective has worn him down, but he maintains a determined eye on retirement.

At the heart of the novel is Luz and Eusebia, and the ways in which their relationship is challenged and reshaped as a result of this looming threat in the shape of concrete beams. The chapters alternate between their points of view, giving us an intimate look at their internal struggles and the growing rift between them when Eusebia finds out Luz is dating the man behind the development.

On the page, Natera takes extra care in breathing life into the women. In Eusebia, for example, I saw a hard-working Dominican mother who prides herself in putting her daughter and husband first – at the detriment of herself. There’s no better demonstration of this than our introduction to Eusebia in the second chapter. Natera opens up with Eusebia making breakfast for Luz and Vladimir. She starts by setting the greca on the stove, then sliding pieces of bread into the toaster. Then, Natera writes: “Removed eggs from the refrigerator and put three in a small pot filled with water for Luz, who would only eat the egg whites, and left three on the side for Vladimir, who would only eat his fried over hard. Vladimir’s eggs needed to reach room temperature before she dropped them in the pan. Later, she’d place each fried egg on top of the not-too-toasted bread.”

It’s not a far stretch to say that Eusebia’s caretaker role brings a bit of discomfort to the reader, and it’s clear early on that there’s a codependency between mother and daughter. Eusebia loves her family, and that love will push her to take drastic action.

To make her crime spree happen, Eusebia enlists the help of The Tongues – her bingo-playing triplet friends who are also community fixtures in Nothar Park. “What if we just scare everyone into thinking this neighborhood is really bad?” she asks them. The women come up with a list of fake crimes and promptly get to work.

In Neruda, Natera does an effective job at making you care for not only Eusebia, Luz, and Vladimir, but for the rest of the cast. One of the most delightful parts of the book, for example, are the carefully crafted interludes by The Tongues. There’s one that made me literally laugh out loud, in which the triplets described the sheer ridiculousness of one of the fake crimes gone wrong. Their short chapters are a welcome respite from the escalating drama and tension between Eusebia and Luz. We also grow concerned for the future of Angélica, Luz’s childhood best friend and a mother of twins whose family is likely to get pushed out by gentrification. And then there’s Cuca, Eusebia’s sister, who traveled to the Dominican Republic for a full-body cosmetic renovation to keep her husband from cheating on her again. These additional characters provide a richer portrait of a community of people with individual struggles and hopes.

As I read chapter after chapter – and as the story marched along – I found myself feeling on edge. I wondered how far Eusebia would take her plan. Who else would get hurt? And, most critically, how would this affect the already strained relationship between mother and daughter? Will mother and daughter get back to how they were before, or will their dynamic be irrevocably changed by the story’s dramatic climax?

After finishing Neruda on the Park, Eusebia and Luz lingered in my mind for days. I thought about what home is, and how it can hold different meanings for people – even members of the same family. I was also left with so much gratitude to Natera for not giving up on her book – a story told with so much love and care for a community of immigrants and their children, and the life they’ve managed to stitch together in the face of so many obstacles.

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The Guerreros live together in the Nothar Park neighborhood of the city which is about to undergo gentrification with the tearing down of an abandoned building to make room for luxury condos. And, even more confounding to them and their neighbors, they receive notification that their own building where they've lived for twenty years, will soon be converted to condos. Luz Guerrero is an up and coming lawyer working for a Manhattan law firm, fully expecting to be given news of a promotion when she meets her boss for breakfast at a fancy restaurant...but instead she is shocked to be told she is going to be let go. The story alternates between Luz and Eusebia's perspectives which works well for this story of two such different women. Natera vividly brings that whole unique Dominican neighborhood to life with her many eccentric characters and their hopes, dreams and worries. An entertaining story of strained but loving relationships. The character development in the novel seems choppy. We never really understand Luz's motivations and many of the events seem disjointed, particularly towards the end in regards to Luz and Hudson's relationship. Eusebia's plan to save the neighborhood happens with the buy-in of many of their building's residents, but there is no indication why some of them make these life-altering choices. The only constant character is Vladimir, Luz's father and Eusebia's husband. His focus is on retiring from the NYPD to the Dominican Republic and building a house for him and Eusebia to spend their days. I just continued to wonder while reading when something was going to happen to complete some of the many threads in this book that do not seem to align with each other, it felt very disjointed and not a cohesive story. I really wanted to like it but due to these reasons it fell flat.

Many thanks to NetGalley, Random House-Ballantine, and Cleyvis Natera for an ARC

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I enjoyed this book. I felt it went from one thing to another quickly, that is why I gave it a 4 star. Besides that, it was interesting. I would still recommend this book!

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