Since his wife died, Hugo Contreras’s debt from her medical bills has become insurmountable. His world in Miami has shrunk. He shuffles between his efficiency apartment, La Carreta (his favorite place for a cafecito), and a botanica in a strip mall where he works as the resident babaláwo.
One day, Hugo’s nemesis calls. Alexi Ramirez is a debt collector who has been hounding Hugo for years, and Hugo assumes this call is just more of the same. Except this time Alexi is calling because he needs spiritual help. His house is haunted. Alexi proposes a deal: If Hugo can successfully cleanse his home before Noche Buena, Alexi will forgive Hugo’s debt. Hugo reluctantly accepts, but there’s one issue: Despite being a babaláwo, he doesn’t believe in spirits.
Hugo plans to do what he’s done with dozens of clients before: use sleight of hand and amateur psychology to convince Alexi the spirits have departed. But when the job turns out to be more than Hugo bargained for, Hugo’s old tricks don’t work. Memories of his past—his childhood in the Bolivian silver mines and a fraught crossing into the United States as a boy—collide with Alexi’s demons in an explosive climax.
Equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, A Haunting in Hialeah Gardens explores questions of visibility, migration, and what we owe—to ourselves, our families, and our histories.
What Early Readers Are Saying:
“In this Faustian hell of a debut, the prose ripples with a mythical rhythm. Raul Palma has taken a splash of Oscar Hijuelos’ musical cadence, a dash of Alejo Carpentier’s magic realism, and along with his own considerable power to depict Miami lore, its humanism, its African rituals, its mysterious legends, its strong coffee—the end result is this suspenseful, stylistic, and sensory classic.”
—Ernesto Quiñonez, author of
“The Florida novel of our moment…Channeling Junot Díaz, Helena María Viramontes, and even Nathanial Hawthorne, Palma playfully limns gothic and supernatural literary traditions in order to offer a serious critique of a post-racial and post-ethnic American Dream.”
—Kristiana Kahakauwila, author of
This is Paradise
“The modern thriller, fantasy, magic, horror and the literary immigrant novel overlap in this at turns darkly funny, at turns heartbreaking and always disruptive debut. In the ways that Walter Mosley maps and curates Los Angeles and its underbelly, Palma maps Miami—bringing the same intimacy and nuance to his cartography of place and character.”
—Chris Abani, author of
The Secret History of Las Vegas
and The Virgin of Flames
“A sensitive and finely wrought debut novel. Filled with currents of magic and sparked with sly infusions of humor, this deeply human tale of loss and grief makes room for the spiritual and the inexplicable, along with a gentle back beat of absurdism."
—Diana Abu-Jaber, author of
Fencing with the King
“Bright with humor and vulnerability…Whether financial, spiritual, or romantic, past and present, Palma splendidly conjures demonic debts in every sense, crafting a story both thrilling and tragic. An affecting novel about the invisible demons that truly haunt us.”
—Gerardo Sámano Córdova,
author of Monstrilio
“Palma [provides] a fresh and vital perspective on the tensions within and around Miami’s immigrant communities, particularly between those who’ve ‘made it’ and those who have yet to, and may never, do so. Palma’s nuanced representations of the physical, emotional, and ethical costs of both positions are deeply poignant, affecting, and tinged with a dark humor, reflecting the author’s expansive, not uncritical heart.”
—Michael Mejia, author of Tokyo
“Searing…In gorgeous, careful writing, Palma mines grief and longing for their twin attendant humors and horrors. A compulsively readable debut!”
—David James Poissant, author of
“Evocative and insightful…A Haunting in Hialeah Gardens masquerades as a humorous supernatural tale while reflecting deeply on the immigrant experience and daring to question the unsustainable human costs of the illusory American dream.”
—Rudy Ruiz, award-winning author of
Valley of Shadows and
The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez
“Part detective story, part prophecy, but all corazón, this novel probes the circuits of labor, debt and love that shape the lives of immigrants and non-immigrants in South Florida and the world they're intimately connected to.”—
—Roberto Lovato, author of Unforgetting