Review: Loteria by Mario Alberto Zambrano

Loteria by Mario Alberto Zambrano
Published: July 2, 2013
Publisher: Harper
Format: Copy via publisher
Rating: 2/5

A young girl tells the story of her family's tragic demise using a deck of cards of the eponymous Mexican game in this spellbinding debut novel that marks the arrival of a powerhouse new talent.

With her older sister Estrella in the ICU and her father in jail, eleven-year-old Luz Castillo has been taken into the custody of the state. Alone in her room, the young girl retreats behind a wall of silence, writing in her journal and shuffling through a deck of LoterĂ­a cards-a Mexican version of bingo featuring bright, colorful images.

Neither the social worker assigned to her case nor her Aunt Tencha, who desperately pleads for her niece's release, can cajole Luz to speak. The young girl's only confidant is her journal. Within its pages, Luz addresses an invisible higher power, sharing her secrets.

Using the LoterĂ­a cards as her muse, Luz picks one card from the deck with each shuffle. Each of the cards' colorful images- mermaids, bottles, spiders, death, and stars-sparks a random memory. Pieced together, these snapshots bring into focus the joy and pain of the young girl's life, and the events that led to her present situation. But just as the story becomes clear, a breathtaking twist changes everything.

My Thoughts
I received this a few days ago and was really taken by the description so I dived right in. This reads more like novella than a novel; it’s a fast and easy read. The cover and illustrations are so vivid in color very true to the Loteria cards.

I was very intrigued by Luz’s story, the story is told by her conversions to someone who is simply called YOU. She tells her story by shuffling the deck and pulling the cards of the Loteria game. However I felt by doing that it was just a bunch of random stories, I just didn’t feel a connection. I really wanted to like the story; it had a good premise maybe it was just the way it was formatted that I didn’t like.

I was very interested in knowing the story of how her sister was in the ICU and why her dad was in jail. I also enjoyed her telling of family memories when things were good. Like all good things they must come to an end though. The root of it all is family, loyalty and the cards that life has dealt you. I think I would’ve rather had more of a story minus feeling that the story was forced by the cards.

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