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Set in Cuba in 1998, Sacrificio is a triumphant and mesmeric work of violence, loss, and identity, following a group of young HIV-positive counterrevolutionaries who seek to overthrow the Castro government.
Cuba, 1998: Rafa, an Afro-Cuban orphan, moves to Havana with nothing to his name and falls into a job at a café. He is soon drawn into a web of ever-shifting entanglements with his boss’s son, the charismatic Renato, leader of the counterrevolutionary group “Los Injected Ones,” which is planning a violent overthrow of the Castro government during Pope John Paul II’s upcoming visit.
When Renato goes missing, Rafa’s search for his friend takes him through various haunts in Havana: from an AIDS sanatorium, to the guest rooms of tourist hotels, to the outskirts of the capital, where he enters a phantasmagorical slum cobbled together from the city’s detritus by Los Injected Ones.
A novel of cascading prose that captures a nation in slow collapse, Sacrificio is a visionary work, capturing the fury, passion, fatalism, and grim humor of young lives lived at the margins of a society they desperately wish to change.
About the Author
Ernesto Mestre-Reed was born in Guantánamo, Cuba, and lives in New York City. He is the author of the novels The Lazarus Rumba and The Second Death of Única Aveyano. He is a Guggenheim Fiction Fellow and a MacDowell Fellow and teaches at Brooklyn College. He has also translated many novels from Spanish, including Laura Esquivel’s Malinche.
Praise for Sacrificio
A Most Anticipated Book in New York Magazine, Vulture, Buzzfeed, Bustle, The Millions, Dandelion Chandelier, and SheReads
An Editors’ Pick in BOMB Magazine, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews
“[Sacrificio] imagines an extreme counterrevolutionary movement during desperate times . . . To Rafael’s bildungsroman amid half-cocked terrorists and a love triangle with their leaders, add a spy-novel parody, a kaleidoscopic Christ narrative, a battery of literary references and a portrait of Cuban life under socialism.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Flourishing in its suspense and realism, the novel tells a story of recovery and resistance; Rafa puts his grief to work as he grapples with the political deeds of the deceased and the death-dealing of the state that looms over them all.”
“A sprawling historical novel that manages to be intimate in its humanity, Sacrificio drew me in and held me in its grip until the very last page . . . Funny and daring, with a plot that will keep readers guessing until the very end, this is the perfect read for anyone looking for fiction that is epic and socially conscious. Its length may seem daunting at first, but trust me, you won’t be able to put it down.”
“Sacrificio itself is many different books in one: a pandemic story, an intricate portrait of queer love, and a fever dream of place, time, and desire. Perhaps above all, Sacrificio is a spy novel that—like Lauren Wilkinson’s American Spy (2019) or Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke (2007)—redefines what a spy novel can be . . . Here, the spies, counterspies, secret police, and insurgents are people at the margins, those whom society has rejected and forgotten. For Los Injected Ones, a body, even one that is faltering, one that is ostracized for carrying a disease, can catalyze a rebellion.”
“Through a sophisticated, layered network of stories within dialogues within stories, the novel becomes a shifting mosaic that explores Cuban history, queerness, and identity . . . [D]epicts Cuba’s underground queer culture in fascinating detail.”
—Apartment Therapy, “If You’re Going to Read One Book in September, Make It This One”
“Combining Cuban history and queer survival all wrapped in a compelling mystery, this enigmatic novel is a spellbinding success.”
—The Bay Area Reporter
“A novel that shows the extremes people go to for what they believe. It’s at once a thrilling, fast-paced adventure and a mournful coming-of-age tale about the harsh realities of life.”
“Sacrificio is an explosive, propulsive, utterly captivating novel. It is a feast of ideas and ideals, intrigue and passion, love and revolution; but above all it is a feast of language. You won't be able to put it down, and even if you could you wouldn't want to.”
—Justin Taylor, author of Riding with the Ghost
“Compelling and sinuous, bleak and darkly funny, Sacrificio is a book about queer desire, the mutability of language, and layer upon layer of deceit: self-deception, family betrayals, and the disinformation of spies and governments. Mestre-Reed’s prose is frenetic, wry, and utterly charming—I’d follow these characters anywhere.”
—Kimberly King Parsons, author of Black Light
“Lush, dreamy descriptions contrast with grim fatalism in Sacrificio, a transcendent novel that catalogs the many ways that humans can hurt each other, and that a society can fall apart.”
—Foreword Reviews, Starred Review
“Mestre-Reed combines elements of a spy novel and political thriller with bleak, steely-eyed realism about Cuba in the 1990s . . . A compelling, melancholy novel that explores the beautiful rise and often violent breakdown of dreams, ideals, and love.”
—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
“A bold and suspenseful story of resistance in late 1990s Cuba . . . This tautly plotted story keeps the reader guessing until the end. Mestre-Reed succeeds at capturing life on the margins of Castro’s Cuba in this stirring tale.”
“For readers willing to give themselves over to a narrative that twists and turns through Havana's streets, churches, hotels, backyard restaurants and many secrets, the rewards of Sacrificio are plentiful.”
Praise for The Second Death of Única Aveyano
“Ernesto Mestre-Reed is a masterful observer, the creator of dazzling word portraits: here the manifold details of family and romantic life, the subtlest shift of facial expression, the minor disappointments of any day, the most elusive yet crushing emotion, are all captured in poetic and daring prose. This novel, the story-fable of one family caught up in the tragedy of contemporary Cuba, draws its authority and unforgettable emotional power from that luminous intimacy.”
—Francisco Goldman, author of Say Her Name
“[A] weird and often wonderful novel . . . Funny and gut-wrenching.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“A powerful, funny, resonant tale of one extraordinary woman and the many lives she graces and ruins. Unica Aveyano is as poignant and compelling and concentratedly Cubana as they come.”
—Cristina Garcia, author of Dreaming in Cuban
“Ernesto Mestre-Reed is among the most gifted and accomplished storytellers to emerge from the Cuban diaspora. Mestre-Reed's Cubans—whether in exile or on the island—are as deftly drawn as Roth's Jews of Newark. The Second Death of Única Aveyano makes clear to all this author's soaring artistry and power.”
—Anna Louise Bardach, author of Cuba Confidential
“This book is important, even daring, in its weaving of the magical spiritual lives of its characters with historical and political realities surrounding them . . . The novel is gorgeously sculpted and breathtaking in its scope.”
—Carolyn Ferrell, author of Dear Miss Metropolitan
Praise for Ernesto Mestre-Reed
“A marvelously poetic meditation on time and memory . . . Ernesto Mestre-Reed has managed to write a work of fiction that, like all great art, both captures and transcends the life of its subject, and that has the capacity to transform for the better the lives of all who come in contact with it.”
—The Washington Post
“The enormous influence of Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude on Latin American literature bears its finest fruit so far in this stunning exploration of the Castro Revolutions roots, character, and consequences . . . dizzyingly complex . . . Seldom has the folly of utopian dreaming been dramatized with such fine frenzied ingenuity.”