I was late to work today because of Mario Alberto Zambrano’s debut novel LOTERÍA. Had to finish it while standing south of 14th and Ninth in a little park. Narrated by eleven-year-old Luz, youngest daughter of a terrifying, violent family whose moments of tangible love underscore its drunken violence, beatings, and humor.

This is a novel about the disintegration of a family. It adopts the form of a Mexican game called lotería, like Bingo, but with images drawn on cards instead of numbers. The chapters are broken up with gripping, full color cards whose content colors the narratives contained in each chapter. A few of my favorites:

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The book reads quickly. It doesn’t have a plot per se, although there is enough narrative momentum circling around a “present tense” in which Luz is telling the story of how she came to be stuck in the custody of the police for a crime she might have committed. We love Luz, though, and can’t quite believe she’d do anything wrong.

Zambrano’s prose is simple, polished, not without moments of poetry where Luz thinks poetry or beauty would beat lend themselves to her tale.

Fans of Garcia Marquez and Isabelle Allende will very much enjoy this book.

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