The Volcano Daughters: A Novel (Hardcover)
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A saucy, searingly original debut about two sisters raised in the shadow of El Salvador’s brutal dictator, El Gran Pendejo, and their flight from genocide, which takes them from Hollywood to Paris to cannery row, each followed by a chorus of furies, the ghosts of their murdered friends, who aren’t yet done telling their stories.
El Salvador, 1923. Graciela grows up on a volcano in a community of indigenous women indentured to coffee plantations owned by the country’s wealthiest, until a messenger from the Capital comes to claim her: at nine years old she’s been chosen to be an oracle for a rising dictator—a sinister, violent man wedded to the occult. She’ll help foresee the future of the country.
In the Capital she meets Consuelo, the sister she’s never known, stolen away from their home before Graciela was born. The two are a small fortress within the dictator’s regime, but they’re no match for El Gran Pendejo’s cruelty. Years pass and terror rises as the economy flatlines, and Graciela comes to understand the horrific vision that she’s unwittingly helped shape just as genocide strikes the community that raised her. She and Consuelo barely escape, each believing the other to be dead. They run, crossing the globe, reinventing their lives, and ultimately reconnecting at the least likely moment.
Endlessly surprising, vividly imaginative, bursting with lush life, The Volcano Daughters charts, through the stories of these sisters and the ghosts they carry with them, a new history and mythology of El Salvador, fiercely bringing forth voices that have been calling out for generations.
About the Author
GINA MARÍA BALIBRERA earned an MFA in Prose from the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers' Program. She’s been awarded grants from Aspen Words, Tin House, the Rackham Institute, and the Periplus Collective, as well as a Tyson Award, the Aura Estrada Prize, and the Under the Volcano Sandra Cisneros Fellowship. Her work has appeared in the Boston Review, Latino Book Review, Pleiades, The Wandering Song: An Anthology of the Central American Diaspora, and elsewhere. She lives in Ann Arbor, MI, with her family.
Most Anticipated Book of the Year from Vulture, Seattle Times, and Electric Literature
“A new heir to the magical-realism throne.”
“A bilingual, mythological, and original debut about resistance and survival.”
“A haunting (and haunted) debut, The Volcano Daughters is a dark marvel of a book, at once lush and stark, mythic and earthy. Balibrera's fusion of history and legend, puts me in mind of a young Isabel Allende.”
—Peter Ho Davies, author of A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself
“My mind and heart were blown open by Gina Maria Balibrera’s astonishing debut. The Volcano Daughters is a work of fierce ambition and blazing emotion, narrated by an unforgettable chorus of ghosts who trace the story of their friends, sisters Graciela and Consuelo, through a journey that spans continents and generations. As the chorus says: ‘The word makes the world,’ and with this novel, her first, Balibrera has done nothing less. Her invocation of the voices of a group of women whose lives were distorted and cut short by El Salvador’s violent dictator El Gran Pendejo left me breathless—and is one of the most powerful stories of motherhood, sisterhood, and survival I’ve ever read. A colossal achievement.”
—Julie Buntin, author of Marlena