Juventud

Vanessa Blakeslee. Curbside Splendor (curbsidesplendor.com), $15.95 trade paper (300p) ISBN 978-1-940430-58-4
Blakeslee's striking first novel (after the story collection Train Shots) captures the essence of bring a teenager in late 1990s Colombia. Mercedes lives with her wealthy landowner father and their many hired helpers on a grand hacienda in Cali. She grapples with a reality she sees at the ends of the property: the dozens of displaced and impoverished Colombians sustained only by her father's meager work opportunities. When she falls deeply in love with a social activist, her political opinions, sexual curiosity, and inclinations to sneak around and defy her father's strict rules are awakened. One fateful night destroys Mercedes's world and causes her to flee her life in Colombia for one in the United States. Not until 15 years later does she return to find answers to her many questions about where she came from. What begins as running away from tragedy and betrayal turns into seeking out the reconciliation of one's past. This tale of self-discovery and intense first love is spiced with bursts of action and curious twists. It will engage readers who have a soft spot for entertaining storytelling and a familiarity with Colombian social history. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/26/2015
Release date: 10/01/2015
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