Daniel José Older on his upcoming Cuban-American family epic The Book of Lost Saints
Daniel José Older is shaking things up with The Book of Lost Saints.
The best-selling author is best known for his fantasy and sci-fi page-turners, including the Shadowshaper and Dactyl Hill Squad series. But this fall, he’ll publish a Cuban-American family epic written for adults, featuring magical realism and a complex exploration of the silence that permeates immigrant communities.
Here’s the official synopsis: “Marisol vanished during the Cuban Revolution, disappearing with hardly a trace. Now, shaped by atrocities long-forgotten, her foul-mouthed spirit visits her nephew, Ramon, in modern-day New Jersey. Her hope: That her presence will prompt him to unearth their painful family history. Ramon launches a haphazard investigation into the story of his ancestor, unaware of the forces driving him on his search. Along the way, he falls in love, faces a run-in with a murderous gangster, and uncovers the lives of the lost saints who helped Marisol during her imprisonment.”
Older tells EW in an exclusive interview that he wrote the book years ago. “It’s really a lot about looking into family and spirituality and history and where they all smash into each other in our collective memories, in our familial memories,” he says. “And one thing that’s really important with this book important in particular is, it’s almost to tear apart the simplification that there’s two sides to every story. That’s something we say a lot. The implication is that a story is flat, because something that’s flat has two sides, and that’s it. Any story is always anything but flat; there are so many angles and sides and dimensions. There’s vulnerability and squishiness and flexibility and everything else.”
Drawing inspiration from greats like Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende, Older also looked to his own family background. “[I was] thinking back [to] the stories that I heard about Cuba as a kid, and then growing up, and then going there myself and experiencing it myself,” he says. “That weird place where the story you’ve always heard meets the reality, and the ways that it does and doesn’t fit in. Those moments were a lot of the inspiration. And then also just listening to people in Cuba and other folks who had left Cuba, and all the different stories that they told.”
As he unfurls this family saga, though, Older hopes that what comes through most clearly is a complexity of experience. ” A lot of this project was about trying to listen to voices that don’t get as much airplay, of people who live through one side of that trauma of the revolution and also the trauma of the run-up too, and the aftermath, and all the complexity that involves,” he says, before reminding: “There’s no simple way to tell this story.”
Older has shared the official cover for The Book of Lost Saints exclusively with EW, which you can check out below. The novel publishes Nov. 5, and is available for pre-order.