cover image Candelaria


Melissa Lozada-Oliva. Astra House, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-6626-0180-4

A Guatemalan American matriarch contends with the apocalypse in the bonkers latest from Lozada-Oliva (Dreaming of You). On Christmas Eve in Boston, 83-year-old Candelaria inexplicably stabs her boyfriend to death with a kitchen knife. Shortly thereafter, she survives a devastating earthquake. On the move, she attempts to reach the Old Town Buffet in the Watertown Mall as zombies begin roaming the roads. Most of the story, however, unfolds a year earlier in the thorny lives of Candelaria’s three granddaughters: Paola, who has become a fitness/wellness guru at the Women’s Stone, a cultish women’s center; Bianca, an ambitious archaeologist recently ejected from a dig in Guatemala by her mentor and lover, Fernando Moreno; and Candy, a recovering heroin addict. Fernando appears at the movie theater where Candy works, which leads to an eventual date and an unwanted pregnancy. As Bianca sleuths out Fernando’s whereabouts, the plot builds to a bloody climax at the Women’s Stone’s underground bunker. Though the switching back and forth between disparate story lines tends to throttle an otherwise propulsive narrative, the author’s funhouse visions are hard to turn away from. This is a glorious mess. Agent: Rachel Kim, 3Arts. (Sept.)