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Vida Paperback – September 7, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 71 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Engel navigates issues of class, ethnicity, and identity with finesse in her debut collection, linked stories about Sabina, a child of Colombian immigrants who grows up in New Jersey before heading off to find work and love in Miami. "Diego was this guy that I met on Washington Avenue at three in the morning the summer I quit my job at the art gallery," the 23-year-old Sabina says in her typically understated voice in "Desaliento," a story about how dallying with the handsome Argentinean hustler seems glamorous and subversive. In "Lucho," Sabina, still in high school where her family is considered "spics, in a town of blancos," a neighbor boy with a rough past is the only one who pays attention to her. In the title story, Sabina, working in Miami, befriends an illegal Colombian immigrant who reveals a tale of being sold to a Miami brothel owner and later being "rescued" by the brothel's guard, now her boyfriend. Engel's prose is refreshingly devoid of pomp and puts a hard focus on the stiff compromises Sabina and her family have had to accept; there's a striking perspective to these stories.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

—Winner of an Independent Publisher Book Awards Gold Medal for Literary Fiction
—A
New York Times Notable Book of the Year and Editors' Choice
—A NPR Best Debut of the Year
—Finalist for The New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award, and Paterson Fiction Prize
—Long listed for The Story Prize
—A
Latina Magazine Best Book of the Year
—A
LA Weekly Top Book of the Year
—Winner of the Florida Book Awards Silver Medal for General Fiction
—A
Los Angeles Times Holiday Gift Guide Selection

"The stories in Patricia Engel’s striking debut collection are like snapshots from someone’s photo album: glimpses of relatives, friends, lovers and acquaintances, sometimes posing, sometimes caught by the camera unawares. . . . [Engel] delineates Sabina’s efforts to articulate an identity of her own with unsparing psychological precision. . . . What makes Sabina’s coming-of-age story so compelling is the arresting voice Ms. Engel has fashioned for her: a voice that’s immediate, unsentimental and disarmingly direct."—Michiko Kakutani,
The New York Times

“Gloriously gifted and alarmingly intelligent, Patricia Engel writes with an almost fable-like intensity, whether she is describing suburban New Jersey or urban Colombia or some other lost place. . . . Her ability to pierce the hearts of her crazy-ass characters, to fracture a moment into its elementary particles of yearning, cruelty, love, and confusion will leave you breathless. Here, friends, is the debut I have been waiting for.”—Junot Díaz

"[An] arresting and vibrant new voice . . . Unforgettable.”—
Vanity Fair

“Arresting . . . Vivid and revealing . . . A tingle of recognition builds as detail after detail sings with the veracity of real life.”—
The New York Times Book Review

“Impressive . . . Unsentimental . . . [With] chiseled prose (precise and unforgiving as a boxer's jab) and [a] tender knowledge that yearning for meaning sometimes breathes under the thickest hides.”—NPR.org

“Engel has an eye for the details of youth . . . [Her] impressive sensitivity to such nuances is what animates
Vida . . . the literary equivalent of interacting with someone who maintains unceasing eye contact—compelling, impressive and a little unnerving. But the book is funny, too, in that same direct way. . . . It’s hard to conceive of a reader who wouldn’t find pleasure in Ms. Engel’s humor and intelligence.”—The Economist (online)

“[A] mesmerizing debut.”—
Miami Herald

Vida calls to mind some of the best fiction from recent years. Like Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, Engel uses stories about connected characters to illuminate her main subject, in this case Sabina, who moves with her family from Bogotá, Colombia, to New Jersey. Engel brings Sabina’s family and culture to life with a narrative style reminiscent of Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. . . . [A] vivid, memorable, and an exceptionally promising debut.”—The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

“You won’t forget Sabina, the troubled, mouthy young Colombian-American woman at the heart of Patricia Engel’s debut collection. . . .
Vida feels like shards of memory. As if all that is left when things blow up—as they always do for Sabina—are these beautiful pieces.”—John Freeman, NPR.org (“Best Book Debuts of 2010”)

“[Vida] packs an emotional wallop that will leave you spinning. . . . Engel’s precision as a writer and her unsparing gaze brings Sabina startlingly to life. In fact, Sabina’s voice is so vivid and familiar, readers might find themselves wondering if they went to school with this fictional character or maybe worked in the same office after college. . . . Many have written about immigrants coming to the United States, but the manner in which Engel explores the shifting identity of a first-generation Latina may forge a new pathway in immigration literature.”—
BookPage.com

"Every story glistens as it follows Sabina through Miami, Colombia, New Jersey, and New York City on her way to understanding and enlightenment in a violent, ugly, and stunning portrait of an American experience."—
LA Weekly (Top Books of the Year)

“A striking debut . . . Engel explores timely questions of community versus personal identity, offers striking observations on the restrictions of class and race, and does it all in a voice that is free of artifice and effort. . . . Rendered with precision and absolute honesty, these stories are quiet and deep, a function of Engel’s clear, direct prose, which is devoid of frills and accouterments.”—Shelf Awareness

“Intense . . . [A] great debut . . . For me, reading Patricia Engel’s
Vida was a little like looking at a Lichtenstein. It reminded me of standing in the gallery of a breathless museum, atop creaky hardwood floors, observing forceful dots of color making a starkly beautiful painting—all the while I registered that sentimental love was something sweet, but inescapably counterfeit. . . . Engel has managed a complex portrayal of both wanting to believe in love while remaining darkly mocking of it. . . . Leveled with charm and muted nostalgia, Sabina’s frank, swindling countenance is powerfully disarming.”—Bookslut

“A narrative exploration of how far a person can run before accepting that she can’t get away from herself . . . Engel has constructed such a solid and sympathetic central character. Fiction tends to like its women breakable, but Sabina doesn’t break, and the narrative voice doesn’t flinch.”—NPR.org (“The Year’s Best Outsider Fiction”)

“There’s no baloney in Engel’s stories, no falseness or posturing. Young women fall in love, and lose their way, as they actually do in life, in every heartbreaking register. The remarkable portrait of immigrant life is not a ‘literary’ portrait or a multicultural cliché, it is unsentimental, unsparing, and true.
Vida is a unique and unforgettable book.”—Francisco Goldman, author of The Divine Husband

“Edgy, perceptive, and razor sharp.”—
Kirkus Reviews

“Engel writes with a passion, yearning and care, crafting narratives and characters that are so real, you know them, have always known them. Pitch perfect, at once restrained and lush, intelligent, funny and dripping with melancholy,
Vida marks the debut of a truly original voice.”—Chris Abani, author of GraceLand

Vida is emotional and elegant, a look at life through the wise eyes and fine prose of a remarkably talented writer.”—Uzodinma Iweala, author of Beasts of No Nation

“Terrific debut . . .
Vida is rich with life. Sabina's story is one of millions of threads of the immigrant experience, but it is universal as well: We all search for our place in the world, for the one who can make us visible.”—St. Petersburg Times

“Direct and unsentimental . . . [Vida] doesn’t disappoint.”—
NOW (Toronto)

“Engel navigates issues of class, ethnicity, and identity with finesse . . . [Her] prose is refreshingly devoid of pomp and puts a hard focus on the stiff compromises Sabina and her family have had to accept; there’s a striking perspective to these stories.”—
Publishers Weekly

“Between the pop culture and politics of our time, we have become accustomed to language that does not clarify, but clouds. This is why Patricia Engel’s work, with its taut focus, its pained illumination, is so important. In
Vida, as much as we come to know her narrator, Sabina, we come to know more fully the inside of our own hearts.”—Asha Bandele, author of The Prisoner’s Wife

“Patricia Engel’s
Vida is that rare thing: a beautifully crafted book that truly has a story to tell. Brutal in its emotional honesty, graceful in its delivery, Vida signals the arrival of a new literary star.”—Mat Johnson, author of Drop and Hunting in Harlem

“What Engel captures so acutely is the vast cultural inner-life of second-generation Americans . . . . [Written with] lovely, heartbreaking subtlety.”—
Baltimore City Paper

“[Written with] impressive sensitivity . . . it’s hard to conceive of a reader who wouldn’t find pleasure in Engel’s humor and intelligence.”—More Intelligent Life (
The Economist blog)

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Grove Press, Black Cat; 1St Edition (September 7, 2010)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 182 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0802170781
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0802170781
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 9.4 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5 x 0.77 x 7.34 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.2 out of 5 stars 71 ratings

About the author

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Patricia Engel is the author of Infinite Country, a Reese’s Book Club pick, Esquire Book Club pick, Indie Next pick, Amazon Best Book of the Month, and more. Her other books include The Veins of the Ocean, which won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice and a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year; It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris, which won the International Latino Book Award, and of Vida, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Fiction Award and the Young Lions Fiction Award; winner of a Florida Book Award, International Latino Book Award and Independent Publisher Book Award, longlisted for the Story Prize and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and named a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. For Vida, Patricia was the first woman to be awarded Colombia’s national prize in literature, the 2017 Premio Biblioteca de Narrativa Colombiana. She has been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Hedgebrook, and Key West Literary Seminar among others, and is the recipient of an O. Henry Award.

Patricia’s books have been translated into many languages. Her short fiction has appeared in The Atlantic, A Public Space, Ploughshares, The Sun, Kenyon Review, Harvard Review, and anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Mystery Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and elsewhere. Her criticism and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Virginia Quarterly Review, Catapult, and in numerous anthologies. Born to Colombian parents, Patricia is a graduate of New York University and earned her MFA at Florida International University. She currently teaches at the University of Miami.

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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5
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