Pineda’s debut novel (after the memoir, Sleep in Me) is told in short scenes spanning decades and involving a handful of characters, leaving the reader to, if not put the pieces together, at least fill in the interstices of the story, which begins when young Tom ignores his twin sister Teagan so he can play with his pals. Notable among these is Mario, “a dumpy kid with a bowl cut,” whose uncle, known affectionately as “Shoe,” is staying with Mario’s family, and dreaming of the idyllic domestic life of his married brother. Teagan goes to a construction site and is bullied by Mario until she hurts herself badly. Shoe, working at the site, discovers her and protects his nephew by taking legal responsibility for her injuries, changing the lives of all involved. Teagan suffers brain damage, consigning her to the world of special education. Both Tom and Mario live under burdens of guilt, of very different kinds. Mario turns into an overachiever, becoming a respected surgeon and intermittently working for his uncle’s release from prison, while Tom grows into a wary and tentative adult, afraid of commitment. Shoe seems to live most fully in the moment, both in prison and after getting released. An acutely observed if sometimes frustrating novel. Agent: Terra Chalberg, Chalberg & Sussman. (June)
"This hauntingly poetic first novel about mistakes, love, and sacrifice... Reminiscent of Alessandro Baricco's Silk, this novel will appeal to lovers of literary fiction."
Library Journal (starred review)
" Apology is a perfectly paced, deeply satisfying novel. Jon Pineda renders his characters with a compassion that refuses to lapse into sentimentality.” Ron Rash, New York Times best-selling author of Serena and The Cove
"A spare and powerful novel about guilt, sacrifice, and the cruel butterfly effect sometimes triggered by our seemingly inconsequential acts. Pineda writes with precision and humanity." Jonathan Evison, author of West of Here and The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving
"Jon Pineda has written a novel that is, by any standard, an impressive success. Apology is a page-turner of ideas, and it shows us how our actions spin out in crazy directions, marbles that roll under our lives' furniture and come out in the most surprising times. I loved it." Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life and Chang and Eng
" Apology hits bookstores today. Run, don't walk, to get it."
David Abrams, The Quivering Pen
.about living with mistakes, learning to cope with consequences and seeking forgiveness."
"Completely engrossing.... With a careful, poetic tone, Jon Pineda has written a story rich with humanity."
River City Reading
"Incessant editing is something that comes from Pineda's poetry background. So, too, is the way he tells the story: in a long line of tiny, imagistic scenes that often focus attention on small things going on in the background. The resultant prose is tight and stretched over the lean frame of a book weighing in at just under 200 pages. But those pages pack a punch."
"Acutely observed." Publishers Weekly
"A harrowing and heartwarming story of familial bonds, struggle, and redemption." Jack Hannert, Brilliant Books, Traverse City, MI
"In simple and elegant prose, Pineda explores the consequences of a tragic accident in the lives of two families. Pineda is a poet and a master at suggesting rather than describing, involving the reader at a deeper and more personal level." Pierre Camy, Schuler Books, Grand Rapids, MI
A tragic childhood accident haunts two families for years to come. This first novel, simple in essence, is fumbling and convoluted in the telling. Picture a deserted construction site. In it is a deep hole with a discarded shovel. As a 10-year-old girl jumps across, a football whizzes past her; she lands badly, falling in, as Mario, the dumb kid who threw the ball, takes off. First to arrive at the site next morning is Mario's uncle, who lives with the family. They are from an unidentified Latin American country, settled now in Norfolk, Va. The uncle's name is Exequiel, nicknamed Shoe. He's well-meaning but not the sharpest knife in the drawer. The girl, Teagan, is hurt but alive. Shoe scrambles away, taking his nephew's football, and calls the company, anonymously, reporting the girl's whereabouts; back home, a remorseful Mario confesses to his uncle. It had been a prank gone wrong. Shoe's actions look suspicious, though; there will be a trial and jail time for the innocent construction worker. Pineda serves up his story in bite-size pieces, focusing on moments he deems special. A poet, his intention is that these moments will crystallize into a luminous whole. It doesn't work out that way. Key events, like the trial and incarceration, get barely a page between them. Teagan's condition is left blurry; she survives, brain-damaged, and that's about it. Attention devoted to Teagan's family should have been spent on Shoe and Mario; theirs, clearly, is the central relationship. Flashbacks overemphasize the point that Shoe has been a loser since age 9, when bandits kidnapped him, demanding he bring them guns. A nonsensical demand culminated in an absurd torture, scarring Shoe for life. Back in the present, Mario makes important life changes. A sloppy melodrama.
After his highly acclaimed 2010 memoir, Sleep in Me, and the poetry collection The Translator's Diary, winner of the 2007 Green Rose Prize, Pineda continues to rise. This hauntingly poetic first novel about mistakes, love, and sacrifice tells the story of spirited nine-year-old Teagan, who suffers a debilitating brain injury after she follows her brother and his playmate Mario into a dangerous construction site, then stumbles while jumping a hole just as Mario's football flies past. The next day, Mario's migrant worker uncle, affectionately named Shoe, discovers the barely breathing Teagan. Burdened by his own childhood tragedy, he refuses to implicate his nephew, instead anonymously calling the police and removing the football from the scene. Shoe thus assumes blame for Teagan's injuries to ensure Mario's chance at a future as this deeply human story asks, can a lie born from resignation, fear, and love transform tragedy into hope? Writing in simple and stunning prose, Pineda lets readers experience events as they're happening. As Shoe recalls his past, "The echoing remnants of this promise burned inside the boy's desire to overcome his brother." VERDICT Reminiscent of Alessandro Baricco's Silk, this novel will appeal to lovers of literary fiction.—Ashanti White, Yelm, WA