Sunstruck by Mayra Calvani | Paperback | Barnes & Noble


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by Mayra Calvani

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Twenty-four year old Daniella is an architecture student living with her narcissistic artist boyfriend in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Abandoned by her father at an early age, Daniella always falls for the wrong type of man. Her most enduring male relationship so far is with her 30-pound Turkish angora cat. Thankfully, Daniella's mother is always there to offer a


Twenty-four year old Daniella is an architecture student living with her narcissistic artist boyfriend in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Abandoned by her father at an early age, Daniella always falls for the wrong type of man. Her most enduring male relationship so far is with her 30-pound Turkish angora cat. Thankfully, Daniella's mother is always there to offer a shoulder.

Several strange mysteries are threaded through Daniella's everyday life: her ex-husband, Ismael, has just opened an outlandish hotel for animal lovers that has her distraught; Ismael's wife, a rich woman Daniella fondly refers to as "Lady Dracula," has some gruesome ways to keep her skin looking young; Daniella's mother is founding a revolutionary, feminist society called The Praying Mantises; the island's national forest is being depleted of hallucinogenic mushrooms; meanwhile, young girls are disappearing and there's a nut loose dressed as Zorro slashing the rear ends of women who wear miniskirts.

Oppressed by all these crazed, eccentric characters, Daniella feels herself falling into an abyss. Then something horrendous happens, making Daniella wake from her stupor and take charge of her life.

Editorial Reviews

Laurel Johnson
Dark and quirky humor coupled with quixotic characters adds to the surprising mix found in Sunstruck… I've never read a book remotely like it. Everything from the humorously weird to the acutely macabre can be found between these covers, and then some.

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Chapter 1

Daniella has just found out that her ex-mother-in-law died last night of a sharp attack of hiccups. It wasn't a sudden attack. The old woman had hiccups continually for two weeks until she died of exhaustion--at least, that's what the doctor said.

Daniella has never heard of anyone dying of hiccups before. She wouldn't have thought such a thing was possible. That's why when her ex-husband, Ismael, tells her the news on the phone, she can't help answering him with an incredulous laugh. Then, she feels guilty.

"I'm sorry. How are you feeling?" she asks.

"Great. The funeral will be tomorrow morning. I'm throwing a cocktail party tonight."

Ismael is an art critic who works for the biggest newspaper on the island. God knows how he got the job. When he was Daniella's husband, he was a starving artist. After their divorce, he married this rich older woman who shares a striking resemblance with Count Dracula's wife and who collects torture devices.

Ismael keeps blaming Daniella for his past failures and starvation, but basically, they still behave like rational Homo sapiens toward each other. Daniella figures she'll be attracted to starving artists--much older than herself, as a matter of fact--till she dies. It's like a curse.

Now, she's living with Tony. He moved in with her a year ago. Tony calls himself a painter, but he's working in the kitchen of a Chinese take-out called Los Chinitos. He used to have a much better job as a waiter for La Cueva, a swanky Spanish restaurant, but he got fired because they caught him too many times stealing food.

* * * *

So now Daniella's getting ready for the party. She's a littleshocked by Ismael's erratic behavior--after all, the old woman was his mother. If it weren't for Tony, she wouldn't go out tonight; she figures this party will be good for him because Ismael's new friends are all important art dealers, artists and journalists and a starving artist needs connections.

She lets her long hair fall in tousled waves down to her waist. At the moment, her hair has a strange, unusual reddish hue. If you mixed brandy, carrots and raspberries in a blender you'd probably get a similar color. She puts on her favorite faded Levi's, one of Tony's white undershirts and a black jacket with black satin lapels. She also slips through her lobes a pair of plastic tiger sharks, a gift from Tony three months ago on her twenty-fourth birthday. What appears to be a human leg is stuck between the jaws of the sharks. As a final touch she applies black eyeliner and purple lipstick.

The first movement of the Sibelius Violin Concerto, dark and mysterious, is playing on the stereo. Thanks to her dad, who took off when she was a kid, Daniella knows about composers. He would lock himself in the music room for hours--God forbid anyone dared interrupt him. At times, he awarded her the privilege of listening with him. Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Brahms--Daniella absorbed them by mental osmosis.

Thoughts of her father make her grimace. She reels herself back to reality.

* * * *

"I love the way those torn legs dangle against your cheeks," Tony says when he comes from work. She can see particles of food stuck underneath his nails.

"Ismael's mother died last night. We're going to his apartment. He's having a party."

"What? I was planning to work all night on that painting. Didn't you say you have a calculus test tomorrow morning? I thought you said you were going to spend the night studying." He kisses her on the lips--not really a kiss but merely two mouths slightly brushing against each other. His lips are soft and full and sensual, and he smells like sweet-and-sour chicken mixed with turpentine.

"A lot of important people will be there. It'll be good for you," she says. Very often she finds herself talking to Tony as she would talk to a child.

He sneers. "You mean a lot of faggots will be there. On this damn island, the art world is completely controlled and monopolized by the faggot society. And the ones who aren't gay are communists. I may be the only capitalist, straight artist around."

"They're not communists. They're socialists. Communists don't exist anymore."

Tony snorts.

"Well, I still think we should go," she says. "Who cares who they sleep with or what their ideas are? The important thing is to make connections. Besides, you should be a little more open-minded."

Commando steps out of the bathroom--he probably was taking a nap on top of the toilet seat--and hisses at Tony. Commando hates Tony, and Tony hates Commando. Commando is Daniella's cat, a Turkish angora weighing at least thirty pounds, with silky white fur and odd-colored eyes--the right eye is blue and the left eye is amber. Daniella got him in Istanbul eight years ago, during one of her trips across the Mediterranean with her mother. She paid $150 for him--a real bargain. She even had to get a passport for the cat, but it was worth it. Turkish angoras are one of the most unusual cats in the world. Years ago, they actually were in danger of extinction. Daniella wishes men also were in danger of extinction. The world would be a better place.

"Stop feeding that cat like that. He's turning into an obese monster," Tony says. "God, those eyes. I can't stand those eyes. He looks like the devil."

Commando hisses again. He gives Tony a surly, menacing look then twines around Daniella's ankles.

"Are you stoned again?" Daniella asks, disgusted.

"Don't be ridiculous. It's still early," Tony jokes, taking off his dirty shirt and tossing it on the bed.

"I bet Commando can look right into your soul," she murmurs.


"Nothing. I wonder why he's getting so fat," Daniella says thoughtfully, more to herself than to Tony. "I only give him one meal a day, just like the vet told me to." Horrific scenarios flash through her mind: Commando with diabetes, a thyroid disorder, a tumor. She makes a mental note to take him to the vet again. Commando is one of the vet's most popular patients, mainly because of Daniella's tendency to overreact.

Tony fetches a cold Budweiser from the refrigerator. That's one of the advantages of living in a studio-apartment--there are no halls to cross and everything is within reach. The only problem is that Tony's junk is all over the place: finished paintings, unfinished paintings, blank canvases, tubes of paint (mainly oils and acrylics), dirty brushes and palette knives, carbon pencils, glass jars filled with moldy water, paint-stained rags, old newspapers and magazines.

And the cockroaches, some close to three inches long and with wings any bird of prey would envy. Tony's infinite messiness offers them endless opportunities for hiding, exercising and procreating. Daniella loathes them, keeps the place sparkling clean, buys all sorts of sprays and devices promising to eradicate the little armored beasts. She has them under control--almost. It's the old building's fault, not hers. Ever since she saw a documentary on TV about cockroaches living inside caves (hundreds of thousands form a shiny, throbbing carpet on the ground, feeding on the endless droppings of bats), she has a recurring daydream of being attacked from head to toes by a swarm of the fiends, their wings, the texture of flaky croissants, fluttering against her flesh.

Daniella tries to ignore Tony's red-and-white-hearts boxer shorts and stands by the window. She pokes her head out and squints into the distance at La Perla, a poor section of Old San Juan crammed with prostitutes, drunks, drug dealers, rapists, killers and other kinds of cozy criminals. Beyond La Perla lies the green-blue sea, acting feral and oblivious to everything around it.

Even though Daniella's apartment is in a reasonably nice and safe area, her mother is always telling her that a person has to be crazy to live in a place like this, at the mercy of roaches and so close to La Perla. But Daniella isn't afraid. Most of the criminals who live in La Perla do their treacheries in other sections of the city. In other words, even though they are criminals, they have a little respect for the concept of Home. Also, she finds Old San Juan very cute, with its old Spanish houses and small European-looking balconies, its colorful cafes, its narrow cobbled streets filled with strolling art students, bohemians, tourists.

The name has always intrigued her. La Perla means the pearl, and a pearl is a valuable and lovely and elegant thing. The person who named the lowest, nastiest section of the city La Perla must have had a diabolical streak. On the other hand, if you consider that a pearl is nothing but the excrement of a mollusk...

Down on the street, a blond woman wearing a big straw hat and with a black camera hung around her neck scolds a small fat boy. The boy, looking mean and dangerous, lurches forward and bites her leg. Giving a scream, the woman stumbles backward and bumps against an older man who is about to hand a little girl an ice cream cone. In the tumult, the ice cream collides with the little girl's face. The little girl howls, stomps her feet again and again then, white-hot with fury, runs off into the busy street. An approaching car abruptly halts to avoid killing her. The street is filled with the honking of horns while the man runs after the little girl. Tires screech. Far off, Daniella hears the persistent wail of a police siren, adding to the great symphonic effect.

She gives a deep sigh, her thoughts vaguely revolving around possessed children, the law of cause and effect.

Tony flops face-down on the battered bed--the center of the mattress looks like a poltergeist is sleeping on it--and gulps the rest of the beer. He belches and says, "I had an awful nightmare last night. Really weird. I was at this house, you know, one of those funhouses where you have to cross turning tunnels and things like that. The thing is that in this house everything was real. Once you bought the ticket and went in you really had to fight for your life.

"The turning tunnel was full of spikes, and I had to swim across a pool filled with great white sharks and there were hungry wild animals everywhere. There was a creature with the body of a kangaroo and the head of the governor. A tiny madonna was in its pouch. It's given me an idea for a painting. I think it's that damn cat. Ever since I'm living with that monster I've been inhaling contaminated cat hairs and having nightmares." He stares at Daniella. "You're wearing my last clean shirt."

Daniella sighs and looks down at Commando. He's purring artfully between her legs. She picks him up in her arms, keenly aware of his dense, heavy stomach, and plants a kiss on the tip of his wet pink nose. "Tell me something, Commando. Why do I, a well-bred, honest, sensitive person, keep associating with weird people?"_

Meet the Author

Award-winning author Mayra Calvani has penned over ten books for children and adults in genres ranging from picture books to satire to paranormal fantasy novels. She's had over 300 articles, short stories, interviews and reviews published in magazines such as The Writer, Writer's Journal and Bloomsbury Review, among others. She has lived in America, Asia, the Middle East, and now lives in Brussels, Belgium.

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Sunstruck 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Crazyfourbooks More than 1 year ago
Sunstruck was unlike anything I've read before. It was quirky and the characters were bizarre to say the least. It was intriging and in a league of it's own. If you are looking for something different to read, this may be right up your alley. I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
autumnbluesreviews More than 1 year ago
Sunstruck was of interest to me in part because the author Calvani lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico and this is where Sunstruck comes to life. Having been born in Puerto Rico myself I found it fascinating to run into an author from the island. I found Sunstruck to be quite funny and throughout the book I caught myself laughing many times. The crazy characters and atmosphere of Old San Juan create a perfect narrative for this mix of madness. Daniella the main character seems like a regular college student until you step into her life and meet her psychotic friends. For a little while you feel Daniella's mother, a widow is the only sane one, until you find out what her true interests are. While her best and only friend fills her ear with her amor for a priest, Daniella feels there are more important things to think about. Like Zorro the psycho going around leaving his mark on the rear ends of woman. Sunstruck is like a nutty Whodunit with a little twist. Who really is in the Zorro costume? With all the crazy characters I caught myself pointing fingers again and again. A great read that will make you forget where you are, while you giggle yourself to complete oblivion from all the silliness.
madcapmaggie More than 1 year ago
Daniella, an architecture student living in San Juan, is surrounded with mysteries. Why has Ishmael, Daniella's ex-husband, opened a hotel for animals? Why are young women disappearing, not even leaving a body behind? Who is Zorro, a masked man marking min-skirted young women on the rear? . Calvini has assembled a wonderfully weird cast of characters: Daniella herself, an architecture student who keeps getting involved with the wrong kind of man, her mother, fond of retail therapy, Ismael, Daniella's ex-husband, now married to the truly creepy Irene, nicknamed appropriately Lady Dracula by Daniella, Tony, Daniella's handsome, self-centered artist boyfriend, and the mysterious Zorro. Mayra Calvini is a master of wit. The descriptions contain just the right telling detail, as when she describes Daniella's red hair as the color you'd get if you mixed brandy, carrots, and raspberries in a blender. Calvini makes the absurd seem reasonable. I found myself nodding at death from hiccups, coffee enemas, and drugged cats. The writing is exquisite, and the narrative strangely compelling. Do yourself a favor and snap this one up.
BookReviewsByDebra More than 1 year ago
The setting is San Juan, Puerto Rico. The characters are bizarre. Our lead character is Daniella, a college student, trying to discover her true self. Her cast of supporting characters are a unique group. A Zorro wannabe is leaving his mark on the rear ends of women wearing miniskirts. An artist boyfriend loves LSD almost as much as he hates her cat, and a vindictive ex-husband married to a woman with a keenness for torture implements, round out the lot. The name Myra Calvani was new to me. She is the queen of wit. Her style is distinctive and kept me turning pages. Calvani skillfully combines twists and turns along with satire to create a book that will stand out in its genre. My only criticism is the cover. It does not do this book justice. Sunstruck is one of those books that will stay with you long after you read the last word. You will want to keep it on your book shelve and pull it out again and again.
obxwriter More than 1 year ago
A Fast-Paced, Humorous and Titillating Read. Recommended. Review by Douglas Quinn, Author of Blue Heron Marsh, etal First, let me say that third person present (it takes me a chapter or two to get into the rhythm of the writing) and chic lit aren't my usual reading fare but I liked the premise, so I dove in and was pleasantly surprised. The characters are quirky and Calvani's descriptions are wickedly delicious, sometimes irreverent and at all times scrumptiously entertaining. All this talk is making me want to run off to Taco Bell, Ismael's favorite hangout-or is it McDonald's or Burger King? Actually it's all of them. Among other not-so-flattering traits, he's also a fast food junkie. Ismael is the disturbed ex-husband of Calvani's moody and emotional heroine, Daniella. He is married to Lady Dracula, a woman who collects torture devices and gives herself blood facials. And who knows what she hides in a secret room behind the closet. And, there's more. Calvani also gives us a mutinous Angora cat with its own passport, an anti-feminist, ass-slasher dressed as Zorro, an animal hotel where you can share a room with exotic and sometimes dangerous animals, magical mushrooms that make LSD seem like a sissy drug, Daniella's mother, who favors retail therapy and coffee enemas, and Daniella's live-in boyfriend, Tony, a surrealist artist who weaves his way through life in his own bizzaro world of drugs and an obsessive quest for fame. Amid the chaos of her friends and family, will Daniella find peace and her place in the world? And who is this Zorro imitator, and what is this obsession with making the "Z" slash on the buttocks of girls wearing miniskirts? You may be surprised at the answers. Prepare yourself for a satirical romp through Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, for Sunstruck by Mayra Calvani is a fast-paced, humorous and titillating read. Recommended for both chicks and...uh...well, you know, us sensitive type guys.