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The Faraway World

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Member Reviews

This is a collection of short stories written by the author of Infinite Country.

The stories feature latinx characters and take place in Colombia, Cuba, New York, and Miami. The lives of the characters are mostly connected with immigration: those who dream of starting a better life in another country and those who have already immigrated and are attempting to build a new life.

This is a beautifully-written book. Patricia Engel has a magical way with words. I was caught up in the lives of these people, and that is sometimes hard to achieve in the short-story format.

The tone of the book is not happy. The characters are each struggling with something. The stories are odd and unsettling and often sad. I imagine that this is what the author was aiming for - a more realistic portrayal of what the lives of these people look like. (It is not all realistic. Engel sometimes uses strange occurrences to illustrate the point of a story. Yet nothing included is not credible, or at least possible.)

I was equally moved and disturbed by these powerful stories. Which is a pretty good recommendation, if you think about it! I think that everyone who reads this book will be glad they did and will carry some of the stories with them for a long time. ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2, available now.

My thanks to the author, Patricia Engel, to the publisher, Avid Reader Press / Simon and Schuster, and to NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book.

#TheFarawayWorld #netgalley #avidreaderpress #simonandschuster

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In a Nutshell: One of the best character-oriented anthologies I have read in a long time. Focussed on South-American experiences in their native land and in the US. An emotional medley of sadness and hope.

When I begin any anthology, I like to have an author’s note or a foreword at the start, telling me how the collection came into being and what’s the common theme to the set. This anthology begins directly with the first story. As such, I didn’t know what exactly to expect and had to go with the flow. What I didn’t expect was a gathering of such realistic human experiences, filled in equal measure with happiness and heartbreak, despair and hope, togetherness and loneliness.

The ten stories of this anthology had been previously published in various literary magazines and compiled together for the first time. Each of the stories is thought-provoking in various ways. The themes covered are strong by themselves: immigrant issues, romantic tangles, religious compulsions, employment-related hardships, social standing, and common to all, the quest for a better future, which is fulfilled at times and is given up in others. Because of the dark side of the themes, the tales are quite dark and emotional. More poignant than depressing, I would say.

While the themes are powerful and provide a great reason for you to pick this up, what makes the collection even more impactful is the range of characters and how they are portrayed. Each story has one central character who acts as the lynchpin of the narration. The development of this character is such that whether you like them or hate them, you won’t be able to ignore them. While some of the problems they face seem similar, their circumstances are different and their approach towards a solution is accordingly distinct.

The endings in most stories are good, though not perfectly sealed always.

As the author herself is of Columbian heritage, the stories have the added stamp of OwnVoices authenticity and hence feel more genuine.

There are a few Spanish words in use, but there was no glossary provided. The meanings are only sometimes guessable, so I wish the meanings had been provided either in footnotes or as a separate glossary.

As always, I rated the stories individually. Of the ten stories, only two were 3.5 stars for me. The rest were all either 5 stars or 4.5 stars. ‘Aida’ and ‘Fausto’ were my absolute favourites.

All in all, this is an outstanding collection for sure. My first book by Patricia Engel, and I am curious to try more of her works.

Recommended to those who enjoy literary fiction, as the stories herein are more about knowing the characters than plots.

4.3 stars, based on the average of my ratings for each story.

My thanks to Avid Reader Press and NetGalley for the DRC of “The Faraway World”. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book.

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The Faraway World / Patricia Engel
This book is out now!

Patricia Engel’s latest release is a collection of ten short stories showcasing characters from a vast spectrum of Latin American immigration. Having read two works by Engel before, I knew going into this that I was in for an eye-opening and emotionally resonant experience. I was not disappointed.

I think that Engel really thrives in short form fiction. She captures amazing snapshots of not only the circumstances that each character faces, but also a level of emotional complexity that goes far beyond the few pages of the story. I am always impressed by her ability to weave her themes into a story, and this is done particularly well in her stories.

This was not a perfect collection, but the lowest I rated any of the stories was 3⭐️. My personal favorites of the collection are Aida, The Book of Saints, Guapa, and La Ruta. This collection comes in at exactly 200 pages. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to read short stories that pack a punch and are enlightening.

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I adore Patricia Engel!! I loved almost all of the stories. I preferred Infinite Country but I still did appreciate these stories! I especially liked Libélula!

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Like Infinite Country, which was set in Colombia and followed one family’s splintered immigration journey to the United States. the stories in The Faraway World all center around community, identity, and, in many, the complex motivations behind immigration. There are no overlapping characters in this collection, but each story is set in either Colombia, Cuba, or New York. In one story, a taxi driver finds salvation by driving a woman to a different church every day for a year to support her attempt to receive a divine blessing to move to the United States. In another, a girlfriend unknowingly shepherds kilos of cocaine for her boyfriend between drop sites in Miami until they are caught and her boyfriend must flee to Colombia. In one of my favorites, a woman works as a maid in New York for a family from her hometown, and struggles with the distinction the now affluent family has placed between their two situations. Every story in the collection is written with compassion and clarity, bringing to life forgotten corners of the world and the people that inhabit them. I think that Patricia Engel is an excellent storyteller, which is highlighted by her ability to create so many different complex characters who all share common hopes, values, and struggles.

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This collection of 10 stories has made me want to go back to Infinite Country, which I missed the first time round, as I was impressed by the writing and the characters here.

I loved the first three stories: Aida, Fausto, and The Book of Saints, and expected this would be a five-star read. Of course, just when I was getting my hopes up there were a string of stories I didn’t find as compelling. The closing two: Libélula and Aguacero were a strong finish though. In fact, Libélula may have been my favourite of the collection.

These stories are all a little sad and quite regretful; they’re about women, mostly Colombian women, going through difficult experiences, and many of them are indeed in the Faraway World of the USA.

So, as I loved half of the stories, it’s a 4-star collection, but a strong 4 stars! I recommend if you enjoy short stories, especially those focused on character.

Thank you, NetGalley and Avid Reader Press for the ARC.

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I received an ARC from Netgalley and Avid Reader Press in exchange for an honest review. I was excited to read The Faraway World because Infinite Country is a favorite of mine from the last few years. This moving and insightful collection of short stories does not disappoint.

Ms. Engel is gifted at writing characters and imbuing them with their own unique voices, such that they seem like real, authentic humans, with flaws and weaknesses and darkness but also gentleness and subtle strengths. She does not make every character likeable or someone you want to root for, but they are consistently intriguing, in large part because of their problematic traits. She also makes interesting stylistic and narrative choices, whether it's switching viewpoints between multiple characters or employing the second person "You" to engage the reader. Each piece is a character study sketched in prose beautifully composed.

While the stories were previously printed in various literary publications, they come together in a cohesive collection. The Faraway World may be the places our loved ones go where we cannot follow, or where our own hopes and dreams reside. Perhaps it's the escape from our past or present circumstances, or the memory of our homeland compared to where we've ended up. And sometimes the Faraway World may be the vastly different worldview of one person relative to another, despite originating from the same part of the Earth. The Faraway World is out there, haunting, even looming, often calling to us, yet beyond our grasp.

This book is not as rich and engrossing as Infinite Country, but I suppose that's the nature of short stories - we are immersed in a tale perhaps deeply but nevertheless briefly. Some stories are more memorable than others, but it's a solid collection. I recommend picking this up if you are in the mood for reflective, melancholic prose centering on issues of immigration, trauma, heartache, sexism, classism, effects of poverty, complicated relationships, and religious faith (or lack thereof).


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I haven't read Patricia Engel's other work, but I'm so glad I read this short story collection and now I look forward to digging into her backlist.

There is a beautiful intimacy in these stories, even if many are bleak and sad. I enjoyed the different settings, ranging from the U.S. to Cuba and South America.

My one minor complaint is that too many of the stories are in first person; this is sort of a pet peeve of mine when it comes to story collections. It can be a little jarring or disorienting to the reader bc we have to remind ourselves who is talking (much more so than in a novel).

However, overall this quibble did not impact my enjoyment of the collection. Each story is crafted like a multi-faceted jewel with smart insights into the psychology of the characters. I look forward to more of Engel's work.

Received e-galley from publisher for review purposes; all opinions are my own

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Short story collections haven't been the best for me recently, but I loved Engel's debut so I was so excited to read this. This lived up to Infinite Country in so many ways. The theme of regret throughout spoke to my heart and soul. While some stories were stronger than others, I highly recommend this collection.

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Many thanks to Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster and NetGalley, for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

I read Patricia Engels’s novel, Infinite Country, a couple of years ago and was blown away by the quality of her writing and the way she brought her characters to life. I knew that several of her short stories had won awards and several have appeared in the “Best American” collections in the past few years, so I was really pleased to find that 10 stories had been collected in one volume. I liked all of these stories and loved most.

Some of these stories are set in the U.S., but also in Columbia, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. Engels writes of characters whose lives are difficult and sad. We come to see how fragile and unpredictable every life is. Some keep going while others cannot. It’s hard to say which way a life will go. There are so many external forces and inner longings at play. We read of the false promises of America set against the dreams and hopes of immigrants seeking a better life. The irony is that the reader well understands that so much hope is pinned on false promises. It’s impossible to calculate the costs of staying versus those of leaving. Choices can become paralyzing. Relationships falter and sometimes fail. Life is always risky, whether you consciously take risks or not. And there is so much collateral damage.

If this all sounds rather bleak, I have to say that this collection is marvelous in the way that Engels draws us in and enlists our sympathies. She has an ability to plumb the complexity of character, so that even people I might not care to meet in real life become interesting, sympathetic, and memorable. Engels skillfully leads the reader to see from multiple perspectives, to grow in understanding and to recognize our inherent kinship with those we might initially categorize as strangers.

Honestly, I loved this collection and would read anything this woman writes.

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Thank you to the author, Avid Reader Press and NetGalley, for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I am on the wait list at the library for the novel "Infinite Country", so this is the first book I read by this author. As always with collections of short stories, some resonate more than others - but all of them showcase the formidable writing talent of the author. We are catapulted into lives that are hard, filled with problems, regrets, feelings of letdown and despair, or uncertainty toward an unknown future. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, the American dream is still very much being sold, and these stories center on people trying to cope with the promises and fallacies behind what they thought they were getting. This is great writing, but definitely not a feel-good book.

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NetGalley ARC - Pub Date: 1/25/23

The Faraway World: Stories by Patricia Engel is a series of short stories where the reader meets a variety of characters experiencing personal challenges. A cab driver who doesn’t want to go home to a wife but drives a young lady around to a new church each day, a young man who can’t choose between two women, a visitor to New York City telling his story about being kidnapped in Colombia with lurid details of his detention and his shame over not escaping. Each story is different and related to Cuba, Miami, Columbia…other Latin countries where their personal lives can’t compare to whatever they want in America. A writer who never writes but is convinced he can be a good author, a boyfriend and girlfriend who resort to dealing drugs, all of the stories are sorrowful although well-told. The overall feeling is desperation, the desire for something better, but in most cases, the unwillingness to try. In a way, so many of these characters have a commonality in that their dreams imprison them; they are kidnapped and chained to a hopeless life and are unwilling to escape because reality is comfort. The known versus the unknown. This was a unique group of stories, but it made me sad.
#shortstories #dreams #hopelessness #escape #TheFarawayWorld #patriciaengel #challenges #America #opportunity #desperate #book #books #bookaddict #booksofinstagram #bookstagram #bookstagramer #bookshelf #booksbooksbooks #readersofinstagram #reader #booklove #bookreader #reader #reading
I received a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. Thank you to NetGalley, Avid/Simon and Schuster, and the author for the opportunity to read this book. Publication: Jan. 24, 2023.

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I received an e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. I don't usually read a lot of short story collections, but I decided to give this a try because I loved Engel's last book. I'm so glad I requested this. The stories are beautiful studies of characters and their intimate relationships, as well as the intimate relationship they have with their homeland. The majority of the stories are set in Cuba, Colombia, or follow people from those countries who leave to make a life in the U.S. While the setting and homeland pulse strongly in the background, each person relates to their homeland differently. Most of them are struggling to find connection to others. Other than that, the characters are very interesting and diverse, and Engel did a wonderful job crafting these stories. They are the perfect length - while I wouldn't want to read an entire book about any of these people, I loved getting a peak into their life. This is extremely well written and I continue to laud Engel for her talents.

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I was recently introduced to Patricia Engel's work by someone at our Friends of the Library meeting; knowing that Engel grew up in our town just made the fact of her unique literary voice and immense talent that much more compelling. I started with Vida, the book that won her Colombia's National prize in Literature (the first woman to win, the first book in translation to win), and then Infinite Country (NYT bestseller, Reese Book Club, etc.). When I heard that The Faraway World was coming out, I immediately requested it on NetGalley, leaving The Veins of the Ocean (winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize) waiting on my night table.

Despite having read the ebook version, I’ve purchased several hardcovers for myself, friends and family, because she will be coming to our library for a special event this month! If you are in the northern NJ area, this is a can't miss event. (Register Here)

As you can probably guess, the book did not disappoint. Engel's characters come to life in all their grit and glamour, in tales of class struggle, love and regret. The settings—Cuba, Colombia, America—are every bit a part of the story here too, vividly described in Engel’s skillful prose. I loved this collection.

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As with most story collections, I connected more with some stories than others. I was most impressed with the diversity of immigrant experiences Engel included in this collection of just 10 stories. Different countries, different classes, people who left, people who stayed. As with Infinite Country, Engel's writing, with its authenticity, challenges the simple narratives we expect to read.

My one complaint is that so many of her stories are in first person, and I sometimes found myself wondering who was speaking to me, still caught up in the last story. Is it a man, a woman, old, young? She often waits until a good bit into a story to reveal the full identity, and by then I'd spent that time still thinking it was the narrator from the previous story, often someone completely different. I think reading this spaced out, maybe one a day, one a week, would be best, to give yourself time to absorb them and be ready for the next.

Favorite story was the last, Aguacero.

Thanks to Netgalley for the advance copy.

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Thrilled to say that I finally found a short story collection that kept me coming back for more. Engel tells some heart-wrenching, heavy, and gritty stories full of believable raw characters. While this collection is dark, there are many moments of love and light. True to the style Engle brings in Infinite Country, this collection of stories is heartbreakingly beautiful.

Thank you, Avid Reader Press, Simon & Schuster, and NetGalley, for the chance to review this book before publication.

Pub Date: 24 Jan 2023
Star Rating: 4.25

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As with all short story collections, some of the stories I really liked and some were not the best ones. All in all, a pretty solid collection with really good writing.

Thank you to Netgalley and Avid Reader Press for sending me an advanced copy.

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The first years in New York he thought, just like we all do when we arrive, that he would eventually go back once he had something saved, but now he’s been here long enough to know there is no returning–when you cross over that ocean and those borders, they cross over you.
from The Faraway World by Patricia Engel

I was blown away by Infinite Country by Patricia Engels and eager to read her again. The stories in The Faraway World offer insight into the lives of those who have left their home country and their families, believing in the myth of a better life elsewhere.

These characters exemplify that one’s losses are not always offset by the gains, that coming to America doesn’t guarantee safety. Even the woman whose husband gives her a life of luxury in America is more unhappy than the maid she hires for physical and psychological comfort.

In the opening story, a twin girl disappears and the American police comments, “This isn’t some third world country…The likelihood that your daughter was kidnapped is extremely remote,” but the reassurance proves to be false. In another story, a Miami teenager in love is unwittingly drawn into drug running.

A once chubby woman with a factory job in America undergoes a series of operations in her homeland to perfect her beauty. She is in love with a younger man; aa horrific accident, in an ironic twist, may send her back to Columbia to live with her mother.

There are also stories are set in Columbia, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic.

A Havana taxi driver’s passenger is on a pilgrimage to visit hundreds of churches, praying that an aunt in America will bring her over. She tells him, ‘I don’t want to love anything on this island. It will make it harder to leave.”

A hardened street kid’s life is changed when required to work at a church with a merciful priest whose impact changes his life and inspires a troubled girl who doesn’t understand why her mother in America hasn’t sent for her.

“No one is safe from this world’s horrors,” a Cuban woman is told. Her priest brother’s bones have been stolen from the cemetery. Like the bones of Cristobal Colon, whose bones were without a country, the dead have no home. The man she loved and who loved her chose to go with another woman to America.

Several stories probe relationships and marriage. An agency arranges a marriage between a Colombian woman and an American man; it isn’t a love match, not a perfect marriage. The wife is still an outsider, each is filled with doubts. And yet, in the end, they stay a family and the man realizes he is happy. A wannabe writer is in a relationship with two woman. When the unmarried woman has an opportunity to go to America, and take him with her, he has to chose. “You can live on your invisible words here…Not over there,” the married girlfriend warns him. A Colombian woman in America meets a troubled man with PTSD after being kidnapped back home. She takes him in and cares for him, uncertain about believing his story of being from a prominent family. Years later, she learns the truth.

These haunting stories reveal truths about what people give up for the hope of a better life and the too often disturbing reality of the cost of staying or leaving.

I received a free egalley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.

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Short story collections can be tough to review because the stories within can be so different and can resonate with the reader in such a big way, or not at all. In the case of The Faraway World, it was such a mixed bag for me. A few of the stories I thought were truly phenomenal, but many of them blurred together in my mind and were ultimately forgettable. I saw that Engel published many of them previously and I sort of wonder why the need to put a book together, but a lot of authors do that so I get it. For me the writing was really great but many of the characters in these stories didn't click with me and overall I thought the collection was inconsistent. The few that did stand out were excellent, though.

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The Faraway World is a fantastic showcase of Patricia Engel’s skills as a storyteller. A collection of ten short stories is filled with gems. Engel excels at building characters who feel rounded and well developed in stories that crackle with life and empathy, I enjoyed the stories that took a turn I wasn’t expecting, particularly The Book of Saints, a story told from alternating perspectives of a man from upstate New York and his mail order Columbian bride. The stories cover a wide range of experiences, many connected to the experience of migration. My favorite story of the bunch comes at the end. Aguacero, centered on a pair of trauma survivors who meet in New York City, reads like a love story of sorts. The Faraway World is a wonderful collection filled with characters, choices, and interactions that I look forward to coming back to a second time, Thank you to NetGalley and Avid Reader Press for the eGalley.

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