Generational curses are made to be broken
I worry, sometimes, about being overtaken by my past. There are things back there I can’t remember, and things I don’t want to. Things I have been forced to forgive that will never receive an apology. Every day I wake up and make the choice to be better and stronger than the people and forces who have tried to break me. So it was a bit of a heart-wrenching surprise that my first book review of the year should get to be for V. Castro’s Haunting of Alejandra, a novel built on honoring and moving on from a past that feels unshakeable.
Haunting of Alejandra feels like a book a part of me needed, right when I needed it, desperately trying to carve my way forward into my own brighter and more hopeful future. It is a story steeped in darkness, dripping with pain and longing that can only bring its truth out through years of myth-building. It is the tale of La Llorona, stretching back generations to reveal a battle between darkness and light that feels as old as time and humanity itself. It is impossibly, gut-twistingly dark and blessedly, gratefully hopeful all at once. Castro presents a journey through trauma that refuses to paint its picture clearly, and in the muddiness of it reveals the ultimate truth.
Alejandra, our titular main character, is messy. Every day, nearly every moment, of her life is a battle to find the light in an all-consuming darkness. She is filled with rage, and pain, and anger, and sadness and bashes against the walls of herself to fight to be seen. Her husband glosses over it; she fights so that her children do not have to see it for its true depths. One decision changes the course of her life in a way that affects the core of her family and herself, and in the choosing she takes a stand against an evil whose hunger is insatiable.
V. Castro’s novels feel not only important but necessary. Her characters are unflinchingly portrayed and unapologetic in their forms, forcing their audience to see every dark and broken part of them so they might be better able to see it in themselves. Haunting is a tale of La Llorona and generational curses, post-partum depression and losing yourself, and shines a crack of light on just how monumental the battle to find yourself again can get — but also how worth it. Alejandra’s character is occasionally hard to face specifically because the darkness she is battling against is so palpable on the page. We feel her rage, and the cutting off of her breath, and the sheer weight of hopelessness she fights. And it hurts. It smothers. It beckons. It makes her strength in heading ever more toward the light that much more hopeful, and that much more comforting.
The Haunting of Alejandra hits shelves April 18, 2023 from Penguin Random House. I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to receive an ARC in exchange for an honest review.