A boy who wants to die. A girl who would do anything to live. A stranger with their fate in her hands.
Cathie Ayala has never been to Santa María, the country of her parents’ birth. Now her beloved godmother has gone missing in that South American nation’s political turmoil. Risking her safety and sense of self, Cathie sets out to find the woman who raised her.
Instead she stumbles on two young people facing crises of their own. Injured in a terrible accident on her way to her fiesta de quinceañera, Jewel appears to have one foot in this life and one in the next--while Nicky is reeling from a spectacular failure to resolve his own existential problem. The companions must succeed or fail together, navigating not only a war zone but each one’s relationship to death and life.
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from the book
In her thirty-four years, Catherine had rarely flown by herself, and she’d never had a window seat. She pressed her forehead and fingertips, like a child, against the airplane window’s thick pane, gazing at the coastline of white sands and waters of impossible emerald. When she stepped out the door of the six-seater, completing the hour-long hop from Panama City, a hot, wet wall hit her face. She wanted to laugh. As she crossed the tarmac to the airport building, a man in line behind her said, “Hace un calor de los diablos.” Hot as hell. Catherine was pleased: she could understand him. These were her initial impressions of Santa María: the joy of the flight; the surprise of the climate; the tiny triumph of comprehending a little bit of Spanish.
Her thoughts took a darker turn as she joined the queue to pass through customs. A poster on the wall showed a photo of a little girl leaning on a single crutch, the stump of one leg wrapped in a cast. The slogan beneath read, “Niña herida por una mina del FUSaLi… ¿y SUS derechos humanos?”
Catherine turned away, but the words, and the image, stayed in her mind. Niña she understood, and, with a shudder, mina. About the rest she was uncertain. But she glanced at the poster again and worked it out. FUSaLi was the armed opposition, the Frente Unida Santamariana de Liberación. Santa Marían forces had been accused by the UN and other international organizations of human rights abuses. This poster in the airport was the government’s counterattack: “Child wounded by a FUSaLi landmine. And HER human rights?”