Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer: A Novel (Hardcover)
This was an emotional symphony that managed to complicate the cacophony that comes with loss--loss of identity, loss of county, loss of loved ones, loss of self. I've never read such a complex story about grief and the many forms it takes and in such a way that feels like a dream and a nightmare at the same time. This is a testament to Figueroa's writing skill because she beautiful crafts each sentence as though it was meant to be there. A true wordsmith.
At times, I almost felt that I was the wrong reader for this book, especially when discussing the privilege of travel, of choosing to leave one's homeland instead of choosing to leave. I have chosen to leave, while at the same time I didn't. Though I do not need to experience being forced out to appreciate this book and the perspective it gives, I do feel as though I haven't read enough voices from the people who have been forcibly thrown out of their homeland and are subjected to the exotic notions of white tourists who have only read about other cultures but have nothing that relates, nothing that's tangible to what Rufina, Rafa, and their mother experienced. To explore the world is a privilege--something I've never thought about before. That is not to say that one cannot explore the world, but explorers need to be aware of where they are at all times. Many tourists stop at the sight of two siblings earning money so that they may win a bet that is life or death, literally. But they do not know why they are subjected to the square, only that they are there to entertain. They do not know the stories because they do not care. They only care about the experience because they will go home and say, "I've had a great time."
In all, this debut has made me think about both travel and the stories I have yet to read. This is such a beautiful example of what the book industry has failed to exalt in the past. Figueroa writes with power, a power that should not be ignored.— Jazmine
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.
About the Author
Jamie Figueroa received her MFA in creative writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her writing has appeared in Epoch, McSweeney's, and American Short Fiction. She is the recipient of the Truman Capote Scholarship and is a Bread Loaf scholar. Boricua by way of Ohio, Figueroa lives in northern New Mexico.
An Electric Literature Most Anticipated Debut of the Year
A Write or Die Tribe Most Anticipated Book of the Year
A Rumpus Most Anticipated Book of Next Year
"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