A Haunting in Hialeah Garden
by Raul Palma
Indie Author: No
Kindle Unlimited: No
Publication Date: 10.3.23
Hispanic American Literature
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
Page Count: 286 Pages
A genre-bending debut with a fiercely political heart, A Haunting in Hialeah Gardens explores the weight of the devil’s bargain, following the lengths one man will go to for the promise of freedom.
Hugo Contreras’s world in Miami has shrunk. Since his wife died, Hugo’s debt from her medical bills has become insurmountable. He shuffles between his efficiency apartment, La Carreta (his favorite place for a cafecito), and a botanica in a strip mall where he works as the resident babaláwo.
One day, Hugo’s nemesis calls. Alexi Ramirez is a debt collector who has been hounding Hugo for years, and Hugo assumes this call is just more of the same. Except this time Alexi is calling because he needs spiritual help. His house is haunted. Alexi proposes a deal: If Hugo can successfully cleanse his home before Noche Buena, Alexi will forgive Hugo’s debt. Hugo reluctantly accepts, but there’s one issue: Despite being a babaláwo, he doesn’t believe in spirits.
Hugo plans to do what he’s done with dozens of clients before: use sleight of hand and amateur psychology to convince Alexi the spirits have departed. But when the job turns out to be more than Hugo bargained for, Hugo’s old tricks don’t work. Memories of his past—his childhood in the Bolivian silver mines and a fraught crossing into the United States as a boy—collide with Alexi’s demons in an explosive climax.
Equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, A Haunting in Hialeah Gardens explores questions of visibility, migration, and what we owe—to ourselves, our families, and our histories.
There are so many fantastic aspects to this book, but going into it, know that it’s a tragedy with a ray of hope. The ending is ambiguous so many of the storylines are left up to do to decide what lessons the characters took from the events that unfolded. I choose to see everyone involved in a light of growth.
The author brings Miami to live with vivid descriptions of culture and people. There is so much life in the pages of this story. From his own job as the resident babaláwo to displaying different walks of life that live in Miami. I loved the insight to Hugo’s job, his thoughts on rituals within a very ritualistic line of work really make his character more grounded in the plot. The fact that his feelings on it all are really only a step away from Alexi’s wife’s feelings make it all hit harder for me. Had he been a tried and true believer it would have been less interesting.
While I am left with a lot of questions, they are more curiosities than feeling like there should have been more information within the pages. I want to know what Alexi does next, and Hugo’s boss drops cookies in every scene she is in that just leave me wanting to deep dive into her life. But alas, she is not the main character of this story.
Hugo’s life is relatable, ‘cough’ student debt ‘cough’, the pain he is going through is palpable and gave me pause with my own life and spending. Life is short, are you living yours to the fullest? Are you cherishing the people in your life? Are you living within your means? So many good questions arise from the plot of this one.
How many immigrants come to America from a life that we can only imagine (childhood working mines) only to fall into a life we all know to well, the American dream of massive amounts of debt? Hugo’s emotional rollercoaster through the stages of grief, and being a person filled with hate for Alexi is so well written. Many points had me teary, and rooting that Hugo would find true happiness.
You’ll love this book if you enjoy diving into different cultures, and exploring their religious beliefs. Stories with tragedy wrapped in a blanket of self discovery and magic in plain sight.
Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this book.