cover image The Lucky Ones

The Lucky Ones

Julianne Pachico. Random/Spiegel & Grau, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-0-399-58865-5

Pachico’s history-bound debut novel is a carefully yet fiercely composed collage of voices that bears witness to the executions, forced disappearances, and other atrocities that took place in Colombia from 1993 to 2013 during the country’s violent civil war. The book provides a searing glimpse into the conflict through 11 interconnected short stories—each focusing on a different aspect of the struggle. The novel’s riveting first installment, “Lucky,” takes place in 2003 and sets an ominous tone. In it, a young girl is holed up inside her family’s mansion while they’re away for the weekend. What she doesn’t know—but begins to suspect as she hears a knock at the door—is that they’re never coming back. In “Lemon Pie,” one of the strongest vignettes in the book, an American former middle school teacher has been held captive by the FARC for “five years, eight months, two weeks, and five days.” When not locked in a shed, he passes the time via sessions of “Parasite Squishing” and by delivering lectures from memory on Hamlet and The Scarlet Letter to his class of twigs, leaves, and trees in the Amazonian jungle. The most unique story is “Junkie Rabbit,” a twisted glimpse into a rabbit warren filled with bunnies subsisting on the last remnants of coca plants from a ransacked estate. Having lived in Colombia until she turned 18, Pachico has a firsthand connection to the country’s charms and troubles that shines through on every gripping page. (Mar.)