Talk about a layered book!! So many themes are covered in it and all are relevant right now.
Eusebia has been living in Nothar Park for decades ever since she and her family left the Dominican Republic. She and her husband raised their daughter Luz there, nurturing and putting all of their hopes and dreams into her. But the threat of a new building is changing things in the neighborhood, causing Eusebia to come up with an extremely dangerous plan to stop it. Now, I thought her plan was crazy, but I absolutely understood why she came up with it. Desperation makes people do wild things, but so does unresolved trauma. Eusebia has secrets that cloud her judgment, which cause her to make irrational moves to save her neighborhood.
Her daughter Luz, on the other hand, is a first-gen American living as much of the American Dream as she can. When that dream is shattered, Luz has to figure out if she’s going to keep that dream alive or do things her way. It is a struggle most minority children deal with, especially children of immigrants. The sacrifices made by the parents and the desire for their children to be “real Americans” is a tale as old as time. The author really unfolds the stories in this book beautifully, adding a layered richness to them. There is so much more to this book and the themes aren’t just dumped in just because, they are woven into the main stories, creating a cohesive tale about a community in crisis.
I definitely recommend this book to my readers.
Holy hell was this a wild ride. I have to say, this book took some turns that I couldn’t have predicted on the best of days. A couple things to get out of the way: I loved how complex all of the characters were, especially our two leading ladies Luz and Eubelis. There were times where I wanted to rip my hair out because of their decisions, but then they’d say or do something that would send me into an emotional spiral. While the catalyst for the story is based in gentrification of their home in Nothar Park (essentially Little DR in New York), the story really emphasizes the importance of choices and the autonomy to make them and sit with them, especially for women.
Also, this is a Hudson hate page. I didn’t trust him as soon as he showed up, and his friends suck just as much. They emulate couple of things: 1) just because someone looks like you, doesn’t mean they’re for you; 2) for some people, money rules all; and 3) Domestic voluntourism exists because imagine painting a mural when no one asked you, in a place that doesn’t belong to you, and then getting mad when it’s defaced for all the wrong reasons.
This book touches on so much more including the relationship between husband and wife, mother and daughter, and how culture and generational trauma impacts all of that. In the first 10% of the book, I truly wanted to just hold Eubelis and allow her to just feel everything that she thought she couldn’t and as the book progressed and you say her psychological deterioration, the want to hold her and shake sense into her intensified. It was honestly so interesting to have a character be so illogical and so absolutely logical at the same time and her complexity was amazing.
Very interesting take on gentrification, pride in your community and generational differences. Dominican family long settled in NYC, but the neighborhood is changing. Conflict between the mother and daughter is ruining their once tight relationship. The mother begins to act strangely and lack of communication with her husband and daughter sends her on a crazy spiral to stop the changes in the neighborhood.
Great characters, witty banter, relationship issues and questioning life's choices keep the pages turning.
I received a complimentary copy of this book, all opinions in this review are my own. Thank you Random House.
Courtesy of Netgalley I received the ARC of Neruda on the Park by Cleyvis Natera.. This story focused on Dominican Republic immigrants who settled in a NYC neighborhood and created a home for themselves. Exploring the themes of family, friendship, love, education, ambition, and community gentrification, the engaging characters were brought to life in this debut novel. Building towards an emotional climax in the midst of several catastrophies, I was drawn to keep reading and anxious to have the outcome revealed!
Thanks to Ballantine Books & NetGalley for a digital advance reader's copy. All comments and opinions are my own.
This is a book about which I’m having trouble explaining my feelings. From the publisher’s summary I thought I’d like it more than I did, so it’s only a 3 star for me. This was about a Dominican family in a fictional New York Dominican Republic neighborhood. The parents have sacrificed so their 20-something Harvard-educated daughter can have a law career and as the story opens, she seems to have become an “American” success story. The novel is primarily told from two points of view, the daughter, Luz, and her mother, Eusebia. I didn’t connect with these characters since neither was sympathetic or particularly likable, mostly because their behavior was inconsistent and unpredictable. Especially when the mother, Eusebia, exhibits elements of magic realism (or mental health issues) which created a tension that made me uncomfortable.
The main conflict of this debut novel is when a new high rise development is being built in the neighborhood. Will the current residents be kicked out of their apartments? Will Eusebia’s dangerous plans to halt the construction be successful? How will Luz’s new romance with the wealthy developer affect her family and her future?
The best parts of the novel for me were the food and music descriptions and the authentic supporting characters: Vladimir, Angelica, and Christian.
While I felt like I could tell where the author wanted to take the reader with her themes of family, gentrification, female independence, immigration, and race, the writing was often clunky and sermonizing. When characters gave opinions on women’s appearance and plastic surgery, about women’s achievements in a man’s world, etc., I felt like I was reading the author’s message, not what the characters felt or thought. For instance: “The whole world wants women to conform to impossible standards, and then when we try, they blame us for not being confident enough to love ourselves the way we are. We can’t ever win.”
The following quote from the author, who added this in her “Acknowledgments” at the novel’s conclusion, beautifully summarizes what she tried to achieve with Neruda on the Park: "Here’s wishing every reader who has ever been transplanted, made to feel unwelcome, who faces hostility at home or beyond, embraces my abuelita’s words: “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.”
Wow, this book was amazing. There is a lot to unpack in this book (which I like). Neruda on the Park is a story about the trials and challenges of immigration, gentrification, family and relationships. The book gives readers a view into the Dominican culture/traditions, which I appreciated being I'm first generation Dominican-American.
Eusebia and her daughter Luz love each other, but they have a complicated relationship. The story is told mostly by Eusebia and Luz. I really enjoyed the Dominican neighborhood and its colorful characters and loved the description of its music and food. Cleyvis gives readers an honest and realistic look at issues facing many communities today.
This was an eye opening read about a family and gentrification of their neighborhood. I liked reading about the strength of family relationships, and the character growth. I found myself learning more about gentrification than I knew before. This was definitely a book that will stay with me.
Thank you to the publisher, the author, and to Netgalley for this arc in exchange for my honest review.
In her debut, Cleyvis Natera honors Neruda with a sumptuously beautiful ode to family. She gives an incredible rhythm to New York City. It does not feel like a behemoth. The city is sensual. It is a beautiful walk in a park with cherry blossoms. Character development is strong. The power of love and togetherness is a force with Natera's writing.
What a ride! This book immerses the reader in the Dominican culture in a New York neighborhood. The main focus is on one family, however the neighborhood provides an endless supply of fantastic characters. Community, romance, family and friendship are some of the main themes.
**I received an electronic ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review of this book.
A story about immigration, racism, family, and community. A family from the Dominican Republic moves to a small community in NYC. Their only daughter goes on to Harvard to become a successful lawyer. When the members of the community learn that they must leave their homes to make way for luxury high-rises the mostly Latina women attempt to foil their plans, in not very legal or safe ways.
I enjoyed this fast-paced novel with Spanish phrases mixed in. The strong sense of family and community wrote about was indicative of the Black and Latino cultures that exist in NYC and other places in the U.S.
This beautiful story is a love story of a family from the Dominican Republic and Nothar Park, in Manhattan. The relationship between daughter and Mami is a complex one. Cleyvis Natera has beautifully crafted a neighborhood rich in Dominican culture. I could almost smell and taste the food, hear the Spanish spoken between friends and neighbors, and see those beautiful faces. Thanks to Netgalley and Random House Publishing for the egalley. I loved the story and I loved the culture infused throughout the book.
A beautiful story of community and the roots which are planted by everyone within. A story of a tumultuous relationship between mother and daughter as it evolves from dependence to a balance of independence and understanding.
Fifteenth years to write this book and it was worth the wait.
While this book required more of my attention and took me longer than usual to read, it was absolutely worth the effort. This was an interesting story that was full of the complexities of relationships between family, lovers, friends and neighbors. It was a story that was exceptionally informative about the difficulties of cultural differences, gentrification and discrimination. This book is absolutely worth reading.
This is a bittersweet novel about family, traditions, and self-sacrifice. Doting, do-good Dominican-born mother Eusebia and her cronies concoct a plan to halt demolition of a neighboring condo development when the process of gentrification begins. But their schemes backfire at the same time that daughter, Luz meets the white developer Hudson and falls for him after losing her job as an attorney. And a generational chasm is opened; but family is forever, and fortunately father Vladimir has plans of his own. Natera deftly examines culture, race relations, family bonds, as well as societal expectations in this lovely tale. Clearly this is a novel for our times!
Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!
I enjoyed the premise of this book overall. It warmed my heart and kept me interested. At times, I felt it was a little bit too descriptive and went on for a while, thus why I couldn't rate it higher. But, the topic, was spot on and amazing.
Neruda on the Park is truly a book like no other. What starts as a family drama quickly turns dark and unsettling. The Guerreros have lived in Nothar Park, a predominantly Dominican neighborhood of New York City, for years. Vladimir, the head of the family, was the first one to leave the Dominican Republic decades ago and now works as a policeman. But the novel focuses mostly on the women - Eusebia, a housewife who takes care of everyone, and Luz, their only daughter and an associate at a prestigious Manhattan law firm. The story begins when Luz is let go from her job, but it’s not the only dark cloud on the family’s horizon - when the neighboring tenement is demolished to make space for luxury condos, Eusebia finds herself willing to do anything to save their home from sharing that fate.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. It started out slow and I was a little worried that it would be boring, but when it picked up the pace, I was hooked. I absolutely loved how Natera combined the themes of motherhood, womanhood, racism and gentrification, and approached them from a feminist perspective. It was so satisfying to peel back the layers of the book and with every chapter uncover new details that enriched the story. That being said, I definitely enjoyed Eusebia’s storyline more - I liked seeing Luz grow, but her romance plot line wasn’t as interesting as learning about Eusebia’s past and watching her transformation. I was also very impressed with the theme that Natera sadly only scratched - there’s a very intriguing scene about climate change that I would love to read more about.
TLDR: Neruda on the Park is a melancholic, captivating story about community, responsibility and sacrifice that focuses on two generations of women and the differences in their experiences.
Nothar Park is a predominantly Dominican part of New York City. Having lived there for twenty years, Eusebia Guerrero is determined to stop the demolition of a neighboring tenement to build luxury condos. Eusebia's daughter Luz is a law associate, trying to live the lifestyle her parents worked so hard to give her. She begins a romance with the white developer her mother opposes. At the same time, Eusebia's husband Vladimir is designing a retirement home in the Dominican Republic. Tensions are rising in Nothar Park, racing toward a near-fatal climax.
Nothar Park is a neighborhood spanning one block wide and two blocks long, which sounds small but is still packed full of people due to the high rises and sheer volume of people living in New York City. Luz wound up doing what a lot of immigrant and first-generation children do: understand the mother tongue but read and write and reply in English, excel because anything less isn't allowed, and take it incredibly personally when she isn't able to achieve her dreams. Getting laid off out of nowhere in the beginning of the book rocks her sense of self and place in the world. Eusebia's entire world is caring for her husband and daughter, and the home they have. She takes the demolition and gentrification personally, as it took her a long time to feel like the United States was home. Vladimir is the calm and practical one in the family. As the book progresses, we see the pairs within the family, the shifting expression of their loyalty and love for their home and each other.
Language is choppy in places, not following the usual rules of English grammar. That gives me the impression that it's thoughts translated from Spanish to English because even if she doesn't really speak Spanish anymore, its cadences and influence remains indelibly on her life. There's also significant commentary on physical appearance, particularly the way women must contort themselves into knots to fit all the roles expected of them. Some go to extremes, such as Cuca, but others push themselves in the name of careers and progress. We also have the question of home. For immigrants, is it their country of origin or the country where they carve a place for themselves? As the first generation born in the United States, I understand how hard it is to come to that decision, to figure out what home really is. It's a heart-wrenching story and one that many readers will appreciate.
I read this at a very interesting time. Seeing the first generational family drama as the world in changing around the main character was pretty gripping.
3.5 stars rounded up
This was a novel that grabbed my interest pretty early on, although I was initially confused by the words in the middle of the chapter. I think they were subheadings, but they didn't always highlight what I thought the section was about, so I'm not sure if they needed to be there. The story centers around a Dominican neighborhood in New York City, whose presence may be threatened by gentrification, as many of the poor residents may be pushed out or bought out to make way for high-priced condos. Specifically, the story highlights one family, Eusebia and Vladimir de Guerrero, and their daughter Luz. There is also a "Greek chorus" made up of three gossiping ladies in the neighborhood. The story is told alternately from Eusebia's and Luz' points of view, which mostly works, although I would have liked to hear more from Vladimir, although this may have been deliberate on the author's part to focus on the women's voices. While both points of view were important to the story, I found myself increasingly disturbed by what was going on with Eusebia and there were times when I thought I was dealing with a magical realism situation. Overall, I thought the author did a good job keeping us on our toes about what was going to happen next. Without revealing any spoilers, each woman had their own journey to take and I feel satisfied with what ended up happening with each of them. I did have to reread the end couple of times just to understand it, but it definitely made sense and worked with all that Eusebia had gone through. This was not a fast-paced story, but there was something about it that got into your skin and made you want to keep on reading. While I think a bit of editing (maybe remove the inner subheadings?) and maybe adding a glossary to the end for non-Spanish speaking readers (I was able to figure out most of it from context) would tighten up the story overall, I would definitely be interested in reading more from this author in the future.
I received an advance review copy from NetGalley for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
There is so much to love in Neruda on the Park, a debut novel by Dominican author Cleyvis Natera. The story focuses on members of a Dominican family in New York City who are facing the gentrification of their neighborhood. Primarily it’s a mother/daughter story, but it’s also about family, friendship, love and community. The story is a serious one, but it’s told in a vibrant and often humorous way. Natera really captures the vibrancy and exuberance of the Dominican culture. It’s beautifully written and when it ended I felt like I saw myself and my own Dominican family in the characters. This would make a great book club pick!
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine for this ARC.