Cover image for Geographies of home : a novel
Geographies of home : a novel
Pérez, Loida Maritza.
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Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 1999.
Physical Description:
viii, 321 pages ; 23 cm
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Iliana believed that by attending a college more than five hours from New York City, she could gain independence and escape the watchful eyes of her overprotective, religiously conservative parents. A disembodied voice that Iliana believes is her mother's haunts her nights with disturbing news about her sisters: Marina is careening toward a mental breakdown; Beatriz has disappeared; Rebecca continues in an abusive and dysfunctional marriage. Iliana reluctantly returns to New York City. In this dislocating urban environment, she confronts all the contradictions, superstitions, joys, and pains of someone caught between two cultures but who is intent on finding a home.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Iliana escapes the alienation she feels at college, where her race and Hispanic background make her feel out of place, and returns to her family to confront a broader alienation. Her sister Marina is suffering a severe mental breakdown in the aftermath of a rape. Another sister, Rebecca, is barely struggling at all against her abusive husband and the grinding poverty in which he consigns their family. But it is her mother, Aurelia, who is most alienated in a culture that has no place for her preternatural gifts. Aurelia finds several of her 14 children variously lacking the resources to deal with life. She struggles to come to grips with her own denial of her past, her mother, and the suffering that denial has caused. She and her husband, Papito, long to return to the Dominican Republic but cannot leave behind their adult children, still desperately in need of support and guidance. This powerfully written novel conveys brutality and violence with an underlying search for a place in the family and in a new country. --Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

Out of the conflicting claims of family bonds, ethnic heritage and personal fulfillment, debut author Pérez creates a rhapsodic narrative. It is a story much like Dominican Republic native Pérez's own, about a family who moves to Brooklyn from that island to seek better lives. Iliana, the youngest daughter, comes back home from college the week before Christmas after receiving what she believes to be several telepathic messages from her ailing mother. On her return, she is confronted by family members exhibiting madness, grief and violence. Her sister Marina, who has been raped, is borderline schizophrenic and suicidal; another sister, Rebecca, refuses to leave her abusive husband; her brothers have distanced themselves, and her rigidly conservative parents, Aurelia and Papito, are in a state of denial, having placed all their hopes in their religious faith. Iliana's educated intelligence and strong, almost supernatural intuition chafe against her respect for her parents and the religiously inflicted guilt she feels as she attempts to help her family and define a "home" for herself. Ironically, it is another sexual assault that allows Iliana to understand her resiliency and her family's strength, forged from traditional patterns and bitter experience. Pérez skillfully blends atmospheric elements of Dominican culture into her American setting. Her prose is fluid and graceful but guardedly understated; yet the emotional undercurrent is strong and affecting. She directs her story with a steady hand, and though the rendition of cultural dislocation is bleak, the powerful message is of the redeeming power of family love that contributes to individual courage and self-fulfillment. First serial to Bomb; foreign rights sold in the UK, Germany and Holland; author tour. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

It's hard to believe that this is a first novel, so masterfully does Pérez manage its complex story line and large family of characters. Iliana, one of the youngest of 14 children, is the daughter of Dominican immigrants struggling to survive in New York. She is a student at an elite college hours away from the city, but an overwhelming sense of not belonging and a series of family crises bring her back home. One older sister is having increasingly violent schizophrenic episodes, another is psychologically dependent on her savagely abusive husband, and Iliana's aging parents seem unable or unwilling to intercede in either case. Pérez realistically portrays the pressures that poverty and discrimination inflict on the family. Her novel is not without flaws‘the prose can be clumsy, and we don't fully understand why Iliana came to be so different from the rest of her family‘but the storytelling is so powerful we don't care. This is an author to watch.‘Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ., Harrisonburg, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.