A lonely, stubborn teenager struggles to adjust to life in America in Juliana Delgado Lopera’s gripping novel, Fiebre Tropical.
Francisca’s life is upended when her recently divorced mother drags her family from Colombia to Florida. Resentful of the move and of her mother’s erratic and controlling behavior, Francisca rebels at every opportunity, especially when it comes to accepting her mother’s histrionic idea of Christianity. It is through her enforced church attendance that Francisca meets Carmen, a youth leader who sends Francisca down a path of painful self-discovery.
Francisca’s narration is lively and peppered with Spanish, as if she is telling the story to a close friend. She is dramatic as only a teenager can be, but she is clear-eyed about the tragic absurdity of her situation: Mami insists on holding an elaborate baptism for her dead son, whom she miscarried seventeen years ago. And yet, as Francisca notes, this is the least of her problems.
Every character is both selfish and sympathetic. Francisca is moody and ungracious but desperate for acceptance; Mami weathers tragedy by clinging to religion at the expense of her family; La Tata, Francisca’s grandmother, was denied her dream as a teenager and now drinks away her remaining years. Carmen, too, is a compelling, even cryptic figure. Francisca never learns the reasons for her fate, making it all the more heartbreaking.
Francisca’s family’s struggle inspires anger and frustration on their behalf. Francisca’s relatives, all successful professionals in Colombia, scrape by with help from their church in Miami. It is a gritty, even cynical, take on the accessibility of the American dream, though spirited Francisca never stops looking for something better.
Boiling over with searing details and raw emotion, Fiebre Tropical is a spellbinding tale about an immigrant family’s emotional downfall.
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