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From the acclaimed author of Monkey Hunting (“A miracle of poetic compression . . . An epic of anecdotes, a vista of brief and beautiful glimpses” —Los Angeles Times Book Review), a lyrical, haunting, deeply moving new novel.
Late 1960s. We meet three children: Enrique Florit, from Cuba, living in southern California with his flamboyant magician father . . . Marta Claros, getting by in the slums of San Salvador, forced to leave school to help support her family, her beloved older brother having already left home . . . Leila Rezvani, a well-to-do surgeon’s daughter in Tehran, her mother concerned only with appearances, her father an often foolishly vocal opponent of the Shah.
As we follow them across the next twenty years—the narrative moving among their lives—we see Enrique, a math whiz from a young age, sacrificing his dream of attending MIT to filial duty, and the dream of passionate love to the exigencies of reality . . . Marta, fleeing war in El Salvador, making her way illegally into the United States and finding wholly unexpected possibilities . . . Leila, allowing the expectations of her mother to pull her into an arranged marriage and the constricted life of women in postrevolutionary Iran. We see chance draw Leila and Marta into Enrique’s life—Leila and Enrique loving and losing each other, Marta the means to renewed hope for Enrique—and, throughout, “good luck or bad tilting life one way or another” for all of them.
With its cast of vividly drawn characters, its graceful movement through time and the psychological shifts between childhood and adulthood, and its subtle revelation of the essential hopes and doubts of ordinary people whose lives are made extraordinary by circumstance both tragic and joyful, A Handbook to Luck is Cristina Garci;a’s most beautiful, elegiac, and deeply emotional novel yet.