Cover Image: Neruda on the Park

Neruda on the Park

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Member Reviews

Neruda on the Park is an excellent book that follows a family from the Dominican Republic in New York City. This book shows the loyalty and bond of family, highlights the pitfalls of ambition and illustrates the power of love. Highly recommend this novel.

Thank you, NetGalley, for an advanced copy of this novel.

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I was able to review Neruda on the Park by Cleyvis Natera and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine for providing me with an advanced ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Neruda on the Park examines the lives of Luz Guerrero, her mother Eusebia, her father Vladimir, and their friends and family. Luz is an attorney who loses her job in the beginning of the book. The Guereros live in a Dominican neighborhood that is being threatened by Gentrification. A building is being torn down and replaced by a more expensive complex and the members of the community are facing displacement. Eusebia is intent on finding a way to stop the changes in the neighborhood and save her home by any possible means.
This is an elegantly written story that for me embraces the complexities of intersectional identity (gender, ethnicity, culture) and multigenerational relationships within a Dominican family/neighborhood.

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Neruda on the Park is many things, but at its heart, it's a tender portrait of Eusebia and her daughter Luz, two Dominican women who have made their home --their life-- in New York. We meet the women at a chaotic time in their lives where drastic changes are inescapable.. Whip-smart Harvard Law graduate Luz is thrust into a career crisis while Eusebia and the other Dominican families in their neighborhood are facing imminent displacement by a gentrification monstrosity in the form of a new apartment building. Luz, so close to her mother her entire life, gets swept away in an unexpected romance that alters their relationship.

I don't want to give any more plot detail than that because the beauty is in the unfolding here. I was repeatedly unsure which direction the story was headed, but I was always along for the ride. While the storyline is interesting and remains dynamic, the real stars are the relationships Natera crafts while weaving through the plot. No one felt one dimensional, and at no point was there expository background information cobbled in as an attempt to worldbuild. It's so subtle and so full of depth, but I felt like Luz and Eusebia were people I knew. Were family.

The subtlety that burns quietly through Neruda on the Park builds to a raging blaze before you realize it. The characters are alive, but so are their struggles, their friends, and their neighborhood. I was not at all surprised to learn that Natera worked on this book for over a decade. The care she put into it absolutely shines through. She tackles difficult, painful topics in a gentle way while exploring the deeply complex nature of mother/daughter relationships and the concept of home -- the concept of love. It'll make you want to hug your mom (or mom-adjacent figure) and look at pictures of your childhood bedroom. It'll make you worry you're not doing enough. It'll make you wonder how we know what is enough. Ultimately, it made me anxious for more from Natera.

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Nothar Park is under gentrification. Buildings are being demolished to be replaced by expensive units. Residents are encouraged to re-locate. As the old buildings come down, one family is experiencing life-altering events. Luz, Ivy League-educated lawyer, loses her job. Eusebia, her mother, always supportive of her daughter’s dreams, falls and sustains a mental break when she hits her head. Vlad, her husband, hard-working detective, dreams of the home he and Luz are building in the Dominican Republic for Eusebia. The owner of the new development falls in love with Luz as Eusebia sets out to inaugurate an orchestrated crime wave to deter newcomers. Vlad is unaware of her sick perspective on life and reluctance to return to their homeland. Cleyvis Natera’s principal characters pay little attention to others’ feelings. This is frustrating and sad and seems headed toward dangerous, perhaps fatal, repercussions. Her storytelling touches the soul.

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Reading this book was such a unique and captivating experience. I fell in love with each character’s story and perspective from the first chapter. With the neighborhood being the focal point of the story, I felt it took on its own character role and an important one at that. Unknowingly bonding each character to each other, the neighborhood had a way of renewing old friendships and wounds while maintaining its significance to the main plot.

Fully immersed in this book, I found myself relating to Luz as a woman trying to find her happiness amidst the chaos in her world. After being let go from the law firm where she was a rising associate, she suddenly felt that what society expected and wanted from her wasn’t good enough anymore. She needed to forge a new path without her ever-present mother constantly holding her hand. She began looking for the happiness she had lost along the way.

While Luz was busy discovering her newfound awareness and newfound love, her parents faced the inevitable decisions that come with retirement and security.

Her mother remained busy building up the courage to find ways to save the neighborhood from gentrification. At the same time, her father secretly tried to speed up the completion of their retirement home in the DR to escape the same neighborhood his wife loved. All this while tensions continued to rise in their community and their home. They begin to drift apart, not agreeing on their future. How will they all eventually find the peace they have worked so hard for, and what will they need to give up to find it?

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A strong debut novel. 3.5 STARS. This is the story of Luz ( a Ivy league trained lawyer) and her parents Vladimir and Eusebia. There are so many things going on in this book. Luz and job /life plan issues, a romance for Luz , the relationship between Eusebia and her family/neighbors, and overwhelming the concept of "home" and what it means.
I liked this book but I didn't love it.
What I loved- 1- the premise of dealing with gentrification of beloved neighborhoods (esp immigrant/ethnic treasures) , 2- the magnificent writing style that led me to reread many sentences just for their sheer beauty and 3- The Tongues, the collective voices of the neighborhood women like a Greek chorus commenting on what is happening in the story, 4- the insight into the Dominican community.
What I didn't like so much - 1-the younger characters especially the relationships between them, (maybe just too modern for me ) as Luz and Angelica, her legal co-workers and her boyfriend Hudson. 2- Eusebia's role in the story (while it was resolved in the end)- it seemed that people didn't really pay attention to her fully. 3- The story itself seemed overcomplicated and choppy.
Thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for a chance to read this in exchange for an honest review. Would enjoy reading more from this author.

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I’ve heard it been told that this is one of the most anticipated books of 2022. Please forgive me, I’m not exactly sure why….

Thank you NetGalley, Ballentine Books and Cleyvis Natera for the advanced access to this book.

I started reading this on February 20th and didn’t finish until March 10th, if that is any indication of my feelings for the intensity of the storyline. It was boring in my opinion. With that said, there was a lot of angst going on in the world that had my attention captured full force and my head space may have been a bit off.

This is the story of Luz and her family; father, Vladimir and mother, Eusebia. They immigrated from the Dominican Republic and have lived in Harlem, NY for the past 20 years. When demolition begins in the neighborhood, Eusebia takes it upon herself to create dangerous and often crazy situations in order to try and stop the construction of luxury condos being built. Luz’s father is secretly trying to hide the surprise of building a retirement home back in the Dominican Republic for Eusebia, not knowing Harlem is her home now.

Meanwhile, Luz, after being fired from her Manhattan law firm, falls for the handsome white developer her mother is fighting against. With tensions flying between mother and daughter, the neighborhood is unsure of its future.

This book has family drama, community, friendship, an unrealistic romance and the sacrifices we make to protect those we love.

While I thought the book was ok, I didn’t love it and I don’t understand how it is one of the most anticipated books of 2022….but that is just my opinion and all books aren’t for all people. I recommend YOU try this book and judge for yourself. Happy reading.

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Usually "most anticipated novels" are duds and peers reviews mean zip. This fell flat on its butt. Using Neruda's name to get a buzz going had very little effect on me. I got the Netgalley ARC. The cover is awful, the premise of the book was promising, but like I said, it was not at all good. It gets a passing C.

The main characters are Eusebia and Vladimir, both names drove me crazy being so far from Dominican, they made no sense. Then the story goes to the tenement that they fight over being torn down. Gentrification is usually a good thing. Other races move into neighborhoods of color to give a good mix of race. Either way I suppose it should be a good thing. In Eusebia's mind it is not good at all, she is the negative Nancy. I think of Washington Heights or Harlem being on the upswing. Not being pleased with the non Dominican the daughter chose was the nail in the book's coffin for me.

What a waste of time. It is not a winner in any category or anticipated by anyone as far as I can see.

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The setting: Encroaching gentrifcation in New York City's Northar Park [fictional, I believe] and how members of the Guerreros, a Dominican family, react. Eusebia, the mom, and an elder of the community, takes matters into her own hands by devising an increasingly dangerous series of schemes to stop the construction of luxury condos. Her daughter, Luz, once a rising associate at a top Manhattan law firm [fired at the beginning of the book] becomes romantically involved with the handsome white developer at the company her mother so vehemently opposes. Vladimir, an NYPD officer and Luz's father, is so involved in the retirement home he has secretly designed in the Dominican Republic with Luz, is oblivious to the tensions between mother and daughter, husband and wife.

Throw in a bunch of other people, particularly Hudson, the developer, Angelica, a childhood friend of Luz's, "The Tongues" [loved]--the neighborhood gossips, Raenna, Luz's former boss, and Cuca and Juan Juan [a whole other story!!} and you have quite the cast of characters.

Immigrants, hardships, mothers and daughters, developers vs. community--all familiar stories. And Luz, the local girl who went to Harvard and made good.

I did enjoy a few descriptions:
"Her mothers' forehead took up a generous portion of her face..."
"...even if the parts themselves were meticulously constructed she had that man-made look people have when they've had plastic surgery."
"Her body was still in a pleaure trance."

The book is divided into three segments: demolition, excavation, and grounding.

In several instances--indeed, from the beginning, the plot development/twists were obviously telegraphed [IMHO].

This is a fast-paced read that kept me going--until it did not. At about 80% in, I felt it spiraling down. No spoiler from me, but the last 10%, though believable in terms of plot development--I had wondered--just left me disappointed.

So I'd recommend, for a slice of life, view into the Dominican culture, what happens to immigrants in their struggles against developers, but not wholeheartedly. And it definitely reminded me of a book recently read--Olga Dies Dreaming.

This is Natera's debut novel. I look forward to reading her next book.

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Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read the book in exchange for a review.

This book can be about everything. From keeping the community and home the same to a family’s life. Additionally, this book is just more than just the life of a mother and a daughter.

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A beautiful debut novel. Eusebia and her husband, Vladimir, along with their daughter, Luz, have lived in Nothar Park which is a predominately Dominican part of New York for twenty years. Having come from the Dominican Republic.

Eusebia is considered an elder in the community and she isn’t happy about the gentrification going on around them. Especially when the owner of their building decides to go condo and sell the units. So they must move out or be bought out. They are both proud of their daughter, a lawyer in a fancy firm downtown.

All the while behind Eusebia’s back, Luz is helping her father design the perfect house in the Dominican Republic for him and his wife when they retire. They have worked hard and sacrificed for their dreams and their daughter.

After an accident, Eusebia is even more determined than ever to keep her neighborhood as it is. She enlists her group of women friends and they come up with a plan that may get them all killed.

Meanwhile, Luz has lost her job and fallen hard for the man leading the demo project. This pits mother and daughter against each other and will lead to dangerous results.

It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel. Natera’s writing weaves together themes of family, identity, and community and what we are willing to sacrifice for those we love.

It is a beautifully told story.

NetGalley/May 17th, 2022 by Ballantine Books

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Cleyvis Natera's Neruda on the Park covers a wide variety of topics and themes and includes many interesting plotlines. I found the characters well-rounded, but they lacked a bit more that I was looking for.

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Thank you to Ballantine/Random House for inviting me to review Neruda on the Park from Cleyvis Neruda. This is an elegantly written story that for me embraces the complexities of intersectional identity (gender, ethnicity, culture) and multigenerational relationships within a Dominican family/neighborhood.

This book encourages the reader to perhaps sit with a specific world, for indeed to me a neighborhood can be it's own world, and reflect on how mothers and daughters can love each other and yet have very different ideas about relationships, gender roles/careers, and the future. I found Luz's story more engaging, perhaps simply because I can relate more to being a daughter struggling to understand parental expectations and hopes while needing and wanting to have independence and own success separate from other parts of life and identity. Yet from the start we wonder what has happened to Luz's career in a law firm?

There is a well executed, simmering beneath the surface tension that highlights racial and ethnic tensions
surrounding gentrification. These are timely themes and should be examined for the conversations they can start. did Luz's work and/or identity intersect with her romantic relationship or career?

What and who is home, what parts of identity and family matter the most, and can we find balance among the different roles we play find balance or are we at times forced to live a life out of sync? To lie to protect others or ourselves or simply because we aren't sure what the truth is? these are ideas and questions raised by this striking novel and for me suggest it would be great for book clubs who embrace literary analysis and who seek inclusive, diverse books.

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Neruda on the Park examines the lives of Luz Guerrero, her mother Eusebia, her father Vladimir, and their friends and family. Luz is an attorney who loses her job in the beginning of the book. The Guereros live in a Domenican neighborhood that is being threatened by Gentrification. A building is being torn down and replaced by a more expensive complex and the members of the community are facing displacement Eusebia is intent on finding a way to stop the changes in the neighborhood and save her home by any possible means.

The book tackles a variety of issues and problems among the characters and brings up many interesting plot lines. but I found it slow moving and was bothered by the characters insensitivity to each other.

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Such a beautifully written book with haunting origInal characters. About a Dominican family in NYC, Luz was just fired from her job at a law firm, her mother can’t get out of bed, a young boy was just murdered, part of the neighborhood is being demolished. The characters seem to flounder looking for something and I loved their journeys. The climax is heartbreaking

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Neruda on the Park by Cleyvis Natera is a stellar debut novel.
From challenging family dynamics to gentrification in America, there is a lot to unpack with this book. Natera does a great job with narrating her story through two POVs: Luz and her mother Eusebia.
I felt a strong sense of connection with Luz’s parents' and their decision to sacrifice everything to ensure Luz could pursue her law degree. While I did not care initially for Luz’s boyfriend, by the end I appreciated his part in the grand scheme of her character development.

I cannot wait to see more in Cleyvis Natera’s future as an author! I will definitely be purchasing this book for my personal collection. Thank you to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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It took some time for me to get into this book. Ultimately I enjoyed the narrative of the daughter Luz more than the mother Eusebia. Perhaps I was anxious that something terrible was going to happen or I simply didn’t trust some of the characters like the former boss and new boyfriend. (Full disclosure, maybe I just read too many mysteries and I’m always looking for a clue.)

It was certainly a different kind of immigrant family story from others I’ve read and I appreciated that. And I’m glad that there was a reason for Eusebia‘s behavior which I struggled with.

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Neruda on the Park
To thine own self be true. That seems to be the sentence that sums up this thrill of a novel. It doesn’t start out out as a suspense thriller, but Cleyvis Natera slowly and with rapturous prose unravels the story of Luz and Eusebio Guerrero parallel with the fraying of their mostly Dominican neighborhood in New York City. The novel is divided into three parts, Demolition, Excavation, and Grounding. Luz is the daughter of Eusebio and Vladimir.

They left the Dominican Republic to settle in NYC. The parents sacrificed to see that Luz finished law school and passed the Bar. She is a practicing lawyer in a prestigious Manhattan law firm when she is summarily dismissed. This event kicks off the novel and immediately drew me in, I wanted to know why. How could this happen? Well, small spoiler here, that’s not really the crux of this story.

The bigger issue is the coming gentrification of their neighborhood. And what must be done to stop the construction and destruction. And Eusebio has a plan that is crazy and sets the thriller in motion. Several times, I asked of Eusebia, what are you thinking? But remember my first sentence. To thine own self be true. By the third part of the novel, the ominous clouds are forming and the storm of suspense rises to a thrilling but not complete conclusion.

Are the lies we tell ourselves harmless? What kind of damage can we wrought?These themes are explored under a big umbrella that also addresses the idea of “home” as physical place or psychic peace. Really enjoyed how Cleyvis built this story and the emotional mother daughter relationship. It was damn near perfect plotting and pacing. Besides the cliched boyfriend hookup for Luz, there isn’t much to dislike. Is the neighborhood decaying or is Eusebia’s perspective crumbling? You’ll have to read this debut novel to find out? Thanks to Netgalley and Ballantine for an advanced DRC. The book drops May 8, 2022. Mark your calendar.

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I just loved it! This story of a Dominican family in New York City seemed long and luxurious like a multigenerational tale. There were large themes including gentrification, personal identity, culture, the concept of home that kept me thinking and questioning. Finally, there were excellent neighborhood characters and crackpot plans to address issues that remind me of my favorite domestic thrillers.
This novel had it all, and you will be thinking about these characters for a long time after.

Neruda on the Park is the tentative name for a set of buildings that will displace a long standing Dominican area in NY. Luz, the prodigal daughter is called in to assist defend the neighborhood while she is dealing with a recent job loss and potential new and very different boyfriend.

I was completely immersed in this story and recommend it to all daughters who are still proving themselves to mom :). If you like generational drama, cultural conundrums, New York stories, fascinating characters then #NerudaInThePark is for you ! #RandomHouse #Ballantine #netgalley

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Within the massive NYC, this story is about a group of friends in Nothar Park that have immigrated from the Dominican Republic. From the beautiful mountains to the blue oceans that they once knew in the DR, they were now feeling the constant agony from loud noises, crowded streets and crime in NYC. But this book shows that within the insanity of big city living, there's a sense of personal wholeness and peace being with those you love.

The main character, Luz, wakes up to a pounding demolition close by. Then when she gets to work, she finds out that for whatever reason, she has lost her job as a lawyer in a large firm. Luz lived with her adored Mami and Papi who supported her way through Harvard and Columbia Law School. She was also close to a mentor, Raenna, who said, "I know you're meant for bigger things." It's the line they always use during exit interviews. The big question was: what were her plans? Her Mami was anxious for her to take a new job that was offered. "The people who love you the most are the ones who will do their best to control you." Yet, would her wealthy new boyfriend, Hudson, offer something more exciting?

Reading this story was like taking a wild ride in a cab around NYC traveling at high speeds and at times screeching on the brakes. Sometimes I would have to reread sections and slow down to understand what was happening. It addressed relationships, prejudice, crime and health issues. There was a good sense from this book what it would be like to be an immigrant from the DR with the ongoing fears many have had from ICE storming into a home. At one point, Luz asked her dad, "Do you ever regret the way your life turned out?" I suspect this made many readers pause.

My thanks to Cleyvis Natera, Ballantine Books and NetGalley for allowing me to read this advanced copy with an expected release date of May 17, 2022.

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