cover image The Last Karankawas

The Last Karankawas

Kimberly Garza. Holt, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-81985-7

Garza debuts with an accomplished account of the ties between members of a Galveston, Tex., Filipino and Mexican community as they prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Ike in 2008. Though there are many connected accounts from different points of view, the narrative centers on Carly Castillo, who longs to leave Galveston. After Carly’s mother returned to the Philippines without her, Carly was raised by her grandmother Magdalena, who is now declining from dementia. Magdalena tells her they’re the descendants of the Karankawa Indigenous tribe, trying to impart a tie to Galveston even as Carly longs to explore life elsewhere. Carly’s boyfriend, Jess Rivera, a promising baseball player, helps support his family by working with local fisherman Vinh Pham. Since his father was incarcerated, Jess’s mother rarely leaves the house, and the matriarch role has fallen to the eldest of his four sisters, Yvonne. Though readers might have trouble keeping track of the many characters, the strong sense of place carries through no matter who is talking, whether individual characters or a chorus of Filipino church members who scrutinize Carly (“we are afraid that what we suspect is true, that she has a Filipina mother but no Philippines anywhere in her”). This is a worthy love letter to Galveston. (Aug.)