When Tito Loved Claraby Jon Michaud
Clara Lugo grew up in a home that would have rattled the most grounded of children. Through brains and determination, she has long since slipped the bonds of her confining Dominican neighborhood in the northern reaches of Manhattan. Now she tries to live a settled professional life with her American husband and son in the suburbs of New Jerseyoften thwarted
Clara Lugo grew up in a home that would have rattled the most grounded of children. Through brains and determination, she has long since slipped the bonds of her confining Dominican neighborhood in the northern reaches of Manhattan. Now she tries to live a settled professional life with her American husband and son in the suburbs of New Jerseyoften thwarted by her constellation of relatives who don’t understand her gringa ways.
Her mostly happy life is disrupted, however, when Tito, a former boyfriend from fifteen years earlier, reappears. Something has impeded his passage into adulthood. His mother calls him an Unfinished Man. He still carries a torch for Clara; and she harbors a secret from their past. Their reacquaintance sets in motion an unraveling of both of their lives and reveals what the cost of assimilationor the absence of ithas meant for each of them.
This immensely entertaining novelfilled with wit and compassionmarks the debut of a fine writer.
A youthful dalliance between the children of feuding Dominican immigrants has unexpected late-life repercussions when their paths cross again.
Abducted by her father and taken to New York where her stepmother abuses her and her domineering father closets her at home, Clara Lugo saw college as her ticket to freedom. Come the end of senior year, Clara, much to the consternation of Tito, vanishes. Tito, who has never married or progressed, still lives with his parents and entertains fantasies of family life. Tito's day job as a mover takes him to the home of Clara's high-school mentor, Ms. Almonte, who hires him. But when one of the movers steals a bangle, Tito makes it his personal mission to return the jewelry. The thief happens to be Clara's sister's ex-boyfriend as well as the father of Clara's niece's unborn child—just one of many circumstances that, at the time of Tito's reappearance in her life, make Clara's life Geraldo Rivera–complicated. Her sister, as yet unaware of the child's paternity, has just left for the Dominican Republic, leaving her daughter with Clara. Clara herself is undergoing fertility procedures after she and Thomas fail to have a second child. Not only does Tito's search for the bangle uncover Clara, but also Thomas' infidelity. Colorful characters abound, but lengthy digressions on, for example, Thomas and Clara's meeting in library school, Thomas's career as a librarian and Tito's directionless man-child existence bleed the focus. The unwieldy plot never coheres and culminates in an implausible ending.
Stacked coincidences, elliptical chronology and uneven character development detract from a lively novel with themes centered on immigrant experience and identity.
- Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)
What People are saying about this
"Jon Michaud . . . made me laugh while he was breaking my heart. His novel is a joy, a treasure, and a triumph.” —Lauren Grodstein, author of A Friend of the Family
Meet the Author
Jon Michaud is the head librarian at The New Yorker magazine and a regular contributor to newyorker.com. His short stories have been published in North American Review, Denver Quarterly, Fawlt, and other journals. He lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with his wife (also a librarian) and their two sons.
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