Cover Image: Neruda on the Park

Neruda on the Park

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Member Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley, Random House-Ballantine, and Cleyvis Natera for an ARC copy of this book. This is a debut novel focused on family drama, friendships, romance, and community. 

The story focuses on Luz who is a New York lawyer, her father Vladimir, and her mother Eusebia. The book switches the POV between Luz and Eusebia. The family has lived for the past twenty years in a Dominican neighborhood in NYC called Northar Park. When the demolition of Northar Park begins by a large corporation, Eusebia decides to devise a plan to try and stop the construction and maintain the neighborhood as is. 

The author says she took fifteen years to write the book. I’m not sure if this is typical of most authors but after hearing that and knowing it's a debut novel it made more sense to me maybe why I didn’t love the book and wasn’t fully engaged. Something about the book fell flat to me and felt disjointed. I didn’t really connect with the characters and found myself not really caring what happened to them. The author did do a great job of bringing the Dominican neighborhood to life which I did enjoy. Overall the book just wasn’t for me. I know many people have loved it so I still recommend you give it a try and decide for yourself.
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An amazing story about Dominican Repubican immigrants and how they lived and survived in America. The characters were so well developed I felt an almost visceral connection to them. An excellent read from beginning to end.

I received an Advanced Reader's Copy for the purpose review. All opinions are entirely my own.
#NerudaonthePark #NetGalley
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What an engrossing, all encompassing story of strength of character, loyalty to home and love of those who build us into who we are. Natera tells the story of saving a neighborhood through the lives of a family broken, and with it so many lessons. The characters are interesting and the plot varied and entertaining while also getting to the heart of the matter. I finished this one quickly as I had to see just what would happen next.
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*Thank you to Net Galley for the advance copy. This book is now available everywhere.

I was fully immersed and invested in the complex family history of Luz Guerrero and her family, the concept of home, love, relationships, boundaries, contrasting cultures, community, communication...the list goes on and on. This novel will pull you in and not let you go until the very last page.
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This is a book that's written with a tremendous amount of empathy. I felt like I could get inside the minds of the characters and get a better appreciation for their perspectives.
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This novel is a family drama that deals with the effects gentrification is having on their mostly Dominican neighborhood in New York City.  Luz and her mother, Eusebia are the main characters of the novel. Luz is an attorney who begins a relationship with the neighborhood developer.  Eusebia despises the relationship as well as the development and imposing gentrification.

I liked the way in which the author describes the buildings, the people and the atmosphere of the neighborhood.  The author’s writing style makes the neighborhood seem familiar to the reader.  She also skillfully writes about people and places of the Dominican Republic.

This book will appeal to those who like novels set in New York, deal with the immigrant experience, or involve complicated family relationships.

I received an advanced copy of the book from Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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I was hesitant to delve into this. I go in phases with historical fiction and this one sounded a bit deep for my mood reader tendencies but overall, I'm glad I had the opportunity to experience this story!

I found myself constantly questioning, "Is home a place, a person, an idea, etc.?" I think we have all had times in our life that have made us wonder about the idea of "home" so this brought me back to some of my own personal experiences. 

Family dramas tend to pull at my heartstrings and this was no exception. Add in the whole "gentrification" idea and process ... and the drama increases ten-fold. What a subject though, "gentrification." Many are privileged to not  even know what "gentrification" means which I guess is a testament to the need for more books like this, exposing the cracks in our racist, often heartless society. 

The author's writing is beautiful. This wasn't unputdownable for me but I will definitely be keeping an eye out for additional books by Natera in the future. 3.5 stars but I'll round up to 4 for Goodreads.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an advance copy of this ebook for review!
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One Sentence Summary: A Dominican mother and daughter end up on opposite sides when one decides to fight the building of a luxury condos building and the other starts dating the man responsible for the building.

Neruda on the Park focuses on a black Dominican family in the fictional Nothar Park area of NYC. It revolves around a mother and daughter who find themselves on opposite sides. As Eusebia, the mother, does her best to protect her community from gentrification, all while unknowingly battling a growing craziness in her brain, her daughter Luz waltzes off into an intense romance with the man behind the gentrification after she’s summarily fired from her job as a lawyer. It was fun and fascinating to watch them dance around each other, but I particularly enjoyed how they really spent the whole novel coming to grips with what they really wanted. This is a beautiful story that really touches on so many things, but never feels rush and just unfolds as naturally as possible that the lines between life and fiction started to blur in my mind.

Extended Thoughts
Neruda on the Park is the story of a mother and daughter, gentrification in NYC, race, class, and generational differences. Set in Nothar Park in NYC, a predominantly Dominican area, Vladimir and Eusebia Guerrero have raised their daughter Luz and now face being bought out from the home they’ve had for twenty years. When an old, burned out tenement is bought and torn down, Eusebia is determined to fight it, to protect this neighborhood that has been her home for two decades, the place where she raised her daughter and dutifully cared for her family and her neighborhood. Because a luxury condo building is going up and the landlords of the surrounding buildings want to turn the apartments into condos, essentially forcing out the lively Dominican community.

At nearly thirty, Luz is a successful lawyer being mentored by a high powered female lawyer who sees strong potential in Luz. Until Luz is summarily fired for no clear reasons. Left floundering, she madly tries to piece her life back together, unexpectedly sparking a romance with the very man in charge of building the luxury condos in her neighborhood. Their romance is hot and intense and offers the freedom Luz needs from under her mother’s thumb to determine what she really wants out of her life, but it sets mother and daughter on opposite sides even as Vladimir quietly builds his and Eusebia’s dream house back in the Dominican Republic.

Initially drawn to the mother-daughter dynamic, Neruda on the Park turned into a deeply personal kind of read for me. It’s not my usual kind of read, and I did feel the beginning took too long to get moving, but, once it did and once all the threads started to weave together and unravel, I was riveted. I loved the story of the mother who wants to protect and save her home with everything in her, because the definition of home has changed and she’s tired of giving and giving and giving. I also loved the story of the daughter raised to be Dominican American who cares about her community, but, like many young Americans, is more focused on herself and finding her own way. I loved seeing their stories intertwine, loved watching them develop and find their own needs, wants, and places. In some ways, I found it to be a powerful story of women, but it also touches on class and race and the difference between generations.

Eusebia is the kind of mother who puts her husband and child first, who is the first awake to prepare breakfast, the last to eat, and the one who shoulders the responsibility for her family. There were times when I wanted to scream at her to just let her husband and daughter take care of themselves and just take a day off, but there are cultural differences between her and me and I respect the one she comes from. It’s an integral part of her character, making the sudden crazy shift in her startling, but fascinating. I was riveted by her, by the changes she underwent, while also horrified at some of what she sought to do. She really felt like she was unraveling throughout the story, but, because of everything everyone around her was going through, no one realized, which was amazingly scary but also completely believable. She’s a mother who wants the best for her daughter and a community member who has grown to love this place she has called home for two decades.

Luz felt like the stereotypical young American woman who thinks only of herself. Groomed to be successful by her mother and then her mentor, she only expects accolades and promotions, until it all comes crashing down and she turns a selfish eye on herself and what she wants instead of serving her community and family as her mother does. She chooses to take the time to find her next step, balking at the dreams her mother has for her. As her mother fights the building of luxury condos, Luz becomes romantically entangled with the man behind it. But she’s also in on her father’s secret, so the fact that her parents will be ousted from their apartment is no big deal. She fails to see what it all means to her mother because her own problems are more pressing. And yet she’s there for her community, she suspects something is off with her mother, but I also got the feeling she was unwilling to throw herself into her neighborhood. Her development was soft and slow, sometimes feeling like it was sparked by the story instead of by who she was, but I still liked it, and really loved the way her story ended.

Neruda on the Park is so much more than the story of a mother and daughter. It touches on race, bringing black Dominicans into the spotlight. I liked that it focuses on a black Dominican family, that they speak Spanish, that others are surprised that they’re black and Spanish-speaking. I also loved that the neighborhood was vibrant and willing to come together to do whatever necessary. They relied on each other, helped each other. Luz was the one who really came in contact with those outside of her community. I enjoyed reading the surprise and easy dismissal of her race by various characters. And, through Luz, the reader also gets a taste of class differences. Surrounded by wealthy, high powered people with the world at their fingertips, her reality is that she is an immigrant. Yet she buys into what those outside her culture offer, buying the clothes, the jewelry, the shoes, and wanting to live in a specific area. I did like that the man she dates, Hudson, met Luz’s family, saw where she was from, and still loved her. But I never got the feeling that Luz and Hudson really explored their differences. What initially felt like a sweet romance eventually turned into something that felt uncomfortable to me and uncomfortably sexist, but ended up helping to be the kick Luz needed to really figure out her place.

But my favorite part of Neruda on the Park were the generational differences between Eusebia and Luz. Eusebia’s youth was full of childish pursuits, but I suppose she always knew it was her duty to take care of her family. We see her feeding her family, doing the chores, guiding Luz through her childhood from success to success, making sure her husband never has to worry about her and can instead feel free to ignore her when his work as a police detective gets too heavy. She bears all the burdens, and does it silently. And then there’s Luz who feels incredibly selfish next to her mother, who doesn’t take the time to see what’s happened to her mother and understand her personality changes are actually quite drastic and scary. I struggled through much of the book to understand how a daughter like Luz could become a mother like Eusebia. It kind of felt like a switch was flicked on, but it was also done in steps and I really enjoyed watching the progression as Luz finally grew up and Eusebia made certain choices. It felt like they went from being at odds with each other to somehow joining each other on the same plane. Watching them circle each other warily was a lot of fun and, in the end, I really felt invested in this family and their future.

Neruda on the Park really came to life in my mind because of the setting. As far as I can tell Nothar Park doesn’t actually exist, though I’d love to be proven wrong. It felt like a small neighborhood, but I loved how colorful and close-knit it was. The people who were there when Eusebia and Luz moved to be with Vladimir are still there: the girl from downstairs Luz grew up with has a family of her own there now, and the Tongues (three identical elderly sisters) keep watch on the neighborhood where the children Luz grew up with are adults with jobs and families. There’s a history to this place that felt rich and real and I could believe I was reading about a real community, that I could go there and see all the characters in this book come to life. The neighborhood and their culture felt so real to me that the lines between reality and fiction started to blur.

Neruda on the Park is a beautiful story not just of a mother and daughter, but of gentrification, race, class, family, and finding one’s own path forward. This story really packs it in, but I never felt like it was rushed. The characters developed at what mostly felt like a natural rate, and Eusebia’s was especially fascinating. The two stories did feel a little contrived in order to go together and Eusebia’s story sometimes felt completely unrealistic, but I loved the way the book ended.

Thank you to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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Mother daughter story that centers immigration, gentrification, race/class. This was a slow burn but in the end worth it. Recommend for those who enjoyed what’s mine and yours and Olga dies dreaming. This book will be on my mind for a long time
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I'm passing on reviewing this as it's not my sort of read, and it is therefore unfair for me to review it.
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Neruda on the Park by Cleyvis Natera was a DNF for me. It was written well and had an interesting premise, I just had trouble getting into it.
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There's a certain type of book where you can tell each sentence was crafted, reviewed, edited, and chosen carefully. There are no words wasted and you can tell the author has spent time and effort into the story they've woven for us. The last time I felt that way when reading a book was with All The Light We Cannot See and I was so happy to get that feeling again with Neruda on the Park. While the books are vastly different I could see the hard work that the authors poured into their story. Natera is extraordinary and it's hard to believe this is her debut novel. Her characters piss you off, make you tear up, make you fall in love with them, and she brings into the forefront issues that plague the Latinx community such as gentrification, finding home in the diaspora, expectations of the second generations who carry their parents' dreams, sacrifices, and hopes, and trying to find yourself amidst all of that. Truly a wonderful work that everyone needs to read.
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Thank you so much to @netgalleyfor the ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Wow! What a great debut from Natera! This book is beautifully written - the characters were complex and flawed (which I love as it makes it feel much more realistic). I loved how in depth we were able to look at the concept of gentrification, both the pros and cons. 

I loves Luz and how she found herself throughout the book, and stayed true to the person she wanted to be rather than adjusting her life to fit the mold that other people thought was best for her. I couldn't stand Hudson, but I think that was the point!

Honestly, the middle of the book was somewhat slow moving, however the ending?! I honestly couldn't get enough of the last 50 pages - what a whirlwind! I cannot wait to see what Natera does next!
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Neruda on the Park by Cleyvis Natera
The Gurrero family is like many immigrant families in the United States. Leaving behind hunger and poverty in their beloved home in the Dominican Republic, they settle in New York City’s Nothar park. Father Vladimir becomes a policeman, while Eusebia, his wife, becomes not only her neighborhoods force to be reckoned with, but also her daughter, Luz’s biggest champion and driving force. Each success Lux achieves is not hers alone, but also Eusebia’s, each lapse in what Eusebia sees on Luz’s course to the top, her own.
When Luz loses her high paying job as a corporate attorney, and Eusebia takes a fall that alters her personality, they join in the fight of gentrification of their neighborhood. Natera creates a colorful, emotionally deep set of characters to populate the neighborhood, and it is in the interactions between the main characters and these secondary ones that the novel shines. Gorgeous writing, and characters you will not want to let go fill this beautiful book, filled with the beauty and sorrow of not only Neruda, but people who’ve left their homeland everywhere. This is a writer I will watch.
The publisher gave me an advanced reader copy of Neruda on the Park. It was published May 25, 2022/
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"Neruda on the Park" challenges the universal question of "Where is home?" when the world is constantly changing around you. Tackling familial relations in an age of gentrification, this debut novel is a stunning exploration of hope, home, and identity.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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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.”
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