Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer

A Novel

This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.

Buy this Book on

You must sign in to see if this title is available for request.
Send NetGalley books directly to your Kindle or Kindle app

To read on a Kindle or Kindle app, please add as an approved email address to receive files in your Amazon account. Click here for step-by-step instructions.
Also find your Kindle email address within your Amazon account, and enter it here.
Pub Date 02 Mar 2021 | Archive Date 02 Mar 2021

Talking about this book? Use #BrotherSisterMotherExplorer #NetGalley. More hashtag tips!


A fableistic, "curious and dazzling" debut novel of enormous power and grace about a sister trying to hold back her brother from the edge of the abyss for readers of Jesmyn Ward and Tommy Orange (Booklist, starred review).

In the tourist town of Ciudad de Tres Hermanas, in the aftermath of their mother's passing, two siblings spend a final weekend together in their childhood home. Seeing her brother, Rafa, careening toward a place of no return, Rufina devises a bet: if they can make enough money performing for privileged tourists in the plaza over the course of the weekend to afford a plane ticket out, Rafa must commit to living. If not, Rufina will make her peace with Rafa's own plan for the future, however terrifying it may be.

As the siblings reckon with generational and ancestral trauma, set against the indignities of present-day prejudice, other strange hauntings begin to stalk these pages: their mother's ghost kicks her heels against the walls; Rufina's vanished child creeps into her arms at night; and above all this, watching over the siblings, a genderless, flea-bitten angel remains hell-bent on saving what can be saved.
A fableistic, "curious and dazzling" debut novel of enormous power and grace about a sister trying to hold back her brother from the edge of the abyss for readers of Jesmyn Ward and Tommy Orange (...

Advance Praise

A Paperback Paris Most Anticipated Book

A Bustle Most Anticipated Debut of the Year

One of The Millions' Most Anticipated Books of the Year

A Write or Die Tribe Most Anticipated Book of the Year

An Electric Literature Most Anticipated Debut of the Year

A Rumpus Most Anticipated Book of Next Year

"Curious and dazzling . . . Figueroa’s omniscient, second person narration creates an intimacy while the hypnotic rhythm of her prose and evocative mystical elements invoke an archetypal sense that is at once out-of-time and thoroughly contemporary as we grudgingly recognize our own precarious epoch." —Booklist (starred review)

Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer is so full of voice. It is utterly bright and original.” —Tommy Orange, author of There There 

"Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer is a haunting of a novel centered around the hustle of an utterly unforgettable brother and sister. Jamie Figueroa's faultless language surprises, enchants, and does nothing less than articulate that which is unseen and eaten by profound grief. Supervised by a wild, booted angel (a character for the ages), this marvel of a first novel seems powered by a force that wrecks itself and is made glorious, again and again, until its stunning conclusion. Singular, devastating, and divine." —Marie-Helene Bertino, author of Parakeet 

"In language that is blade-sharp and sun-bright, Jamie Figueroa weaves a story of generations of love and loss that is powerful and aching and utterly new. Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer will never, ever leave me." — Ramona Ausubel, author of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty and No One is Here Except All of Us

"Jamie Figueroa's writing is decadent. Sentences in this book require the reader to breathe and sigh with the revelation of their beauty; others slap you in the face with their sharp assumptiveness. Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer begins in prayer and does what prayer does—gives us hope, reveals our deepest griefs, and sometimes even redeems." —Tiphanie Yanique, author of Land of Love and Drowning

A Paperback Paris Most Anticipated Book

A Bustle Most Anticipated Debut of the Year

One of The Millions' Most Anticipated Books of the Year

A Write or Die Tribe Most Anticipated Book of the Year

An ...

Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9781948226882
PRICE $25.00 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (PDF)
Send to Kindle (PDF)
Download (PDF)

Average rating from 31 members

Featured Reviews

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! No spoilers. Beyond amazing I enjoyed this book so very much. The characters and storyline were fantastic. The ending I did not see coming Could not put down nor did I want to. Truly Amazing and appreciated the whole story. This is going to be a must read for many many readers. Maybe even a book club pick.

Was this review helpful?

Reading this is like watching an ornate and color-drenched panorama of personal drama and tragedy and love and resignation circle around you. It's horrifying and joyous and moving and about survival and how dysfunctional families and lives can lead to self-sufficiency and resilience and at the same time cause depression and something that goes even beyond depression into death-like living. Highly recommended.

Was this review helpful?

I’m not sure what I was expecting with this novel, but wow. A beautifully written tragic tale, this one took me by surprise.
It touches on loss, thoughts of suicide, depression, prejudice, lots of other heavy topics that I won’t say to avoid spoilers.
A sister trying desperately to save her brother one last time.
To me, it really was Rufina’s story and all she had endured. And it was a lot.
It was, at times, hard to follow. But I found the ending wrapped it up nicely. That ending was triumphant. It’s a short novel that packs a punch.

Was this review helpful?

Jamie Figueroa writes about emotion, family, and selfhood in this well-composed book. Literary, lovely, and character-centered.

Was this review helpful?

Jamie Figueroa’s debut novel “Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer” is a fever dream, by turns lyrical, often highly disturbing. The boundaries between past and present, reality and magic are fleeting and uncertain. It is a truly gripping read from start to finish.

The foundation of the story is rooted in trauma, tragedy, and familial bonding. While many scenes are wonderous, beautiful, loving, and kind, many others are dark and foreboding. And the reader does not get much if any advance warning. You may be going along languishing in the beauty of Figueroa’s sentences and all of a sudden read a bit that makes you stop, ask yourself, “What was that?”, re-read, and process. I love books like that.

I do not know Ms. Figueroa’s background, but I look forward to soon finding out. She clearly knows about what she is writing and has beautiful style and technique. We are going to be hearing a lot about her as “Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer” is going to appeal to a wide audience.

Thank you to Catapult and NetGalley for the dARC. Much appreciated.

Was this review helpful?

Very atmospheric writing that keeps the reader engaged in this story about grief and hardship. An adult brother and sister who recently lost their mother try to make it through a weekend. The impetus seems silly but the way it’s written demonstrates complexity in life, emotions and relationships. A beautiful, sad yet short and quick reading novel. Thank you NetGalley for the ARC.

Was this review helpful?

When their mother Rosalinda dies, Rufina and Rufa, brother and sister, find their inability to accept the loss evokes ghosts, those of the past and of a particularly helpful angel. Not to mention a local member of the police force who has been in love with Rufina since they were in school. In gorgeous prose formed by layers of reality and fantasy, Jaimie Figueroa spins out their tale revealing traumas of the past and the misconceptions of the tourists who visit the high desert city they inhabit. She is deliberately vague as to Rosalinda's origins thus obfuscating the tribal traditions usually a factor in books covering this material, but that doesn't lessen the impact of the power of the fate of these three. Lovely.

Was this review helpful?

While this novel is short, it's very immersive and compelling and feels longer than its page length would suggest. The description does a fairly good job pointing out the mix of trauma and magical realism/fabulism blended in this narrative, but I would issue another content warning for discussions of child rape (in the past). It's a heavy read much of the time, but it's worthwhile.

Was this review helpful?

I'm not sure what to make of this novel of two grief stricken siblings coping with the death of their mother and the way they are viewed by the tourists in their town. Rafa is depressed, Rafina wants to save him. There's an angel, there's some magical realism, there's some pointed pokes at tourists, Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. The writing is lovely but the plot didn't grab me as much as I'd hoped. That could be my mood, of course, so suggest this one for fans of literary fiction.

Was this review helpful?

In this haunting debut novel about deep-seated trauma and grief, a sister attempts to hold back the wave of grief that threatens to wash away her one remaining family member. They live in a tourist town not unlike Taos, New Mexico. Its name: Ciudad de Tres Hermanas. The story takes place over the course of three days, but sweeps us back and forth in time, memory, and geography. Ghosts and angels populate the narrative, as do those blessed and/or haunted by these magically realistic characters. Author Jamie Figueroa writes as if possessed by these spirits herself; her language and style, gorgeous and fluid and striking. As in the captivating street performances that Rufina and Rafa are forced to deliver, Figueroa makes us spectators one moment, participants the next. It's amazing how she seamlessly weaves third-person omniscient point of view with second-person imperitive in some scenes.

Was this review helpful?

Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer is a wild read: full of magical realism and disparate parts that a reader has to trust will come together by the end. And the reader is rewarded. The story of the four title characters—brother; sister; mother, now dead but still a presence in the family home; explorer, long vanished; a transsexual angel; the shadow of a stillborn baby; a devoted policeman; a collective of elderly women, the Grandmothers of All; and whole herds of oblivious tourists—becomes immensely engaging as the novel progresses and the reader sees what's at stake for each character.

If you like original, rich fiction with a risk-taking style, you won't want to miss this title. There's nothing else out there like it.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher; the opinions are my own.

Was this review helpful?

Wow, you guys this one was a doozy. A lot of stuff going on, and yet it was very character driven.

This was a book about deep and complicated grief. Rafa and Rufina are brother and sister and live in Cuidad de Tres Hermanas, which is also a tourist destination. They are there in the aftermath of losing their mother, and each dealing with the grief in their own way.

This book was so uniquely written, with beautiful and interesting prose. The author took risks with this book in the style and situations. There were multiple parts of this book that left me uncomfortable and cringing. However, I think the relatability of the characters was really on point. They were each dealing with the grief of losing their mother in their own very different ways.

We also get some of the mothers story as the book goes into the past and back to the present. The mother had an immigration story that left her traumatized and also was dealing with some mental illness. This of course impacted the brother and sister, as they were the ones to care for her.

I don’t think this book is for everyone, but mostly because some of the situations could be triggering. I look forward to more of Jamie Figueroa’s work.

This was also on R.O. Kwon’s list of 43 books by women of color released this year, which is initially how I found it.

Lots of content warnings on this one.

Was this review helpful?

“Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer” is unlike anything I’ve read in a long time. It combines family, sorrow, sexual abuse, abandonment, ancestral trauma, memories, love and loyalty. Toss is some magical realism and exquisite, lyrical prose by Jamie Figueroa and you’ve got a winner!

At times, I didn’t know what I was reading. Was the mother dead? Was she a ghost? Who was the angel? And was the baby real? It was surreal, but worth the wait to see how the book ends. It’s short enough to read in a few hours to find out.

There are beautiful—often hidden—messages throughout. This makes it an excellent read for #ownvoices book clubs picks and English lit classes. One of the wonderful messages is this:

“Happiness, you should know, is just another way of remembering who you are… Summon your strength. It is life coming for you. Your own future is coming for you, charging toward you with all its thundering force. Be ready.”

Many thanks to Catapult for the advanced reader copy of the book, via NetGalley. I appreciate this experience very much.

Was this review helpful?

Readers who liked this book also liked: