Remember that the dream of one is the dream of everyone.
Ernest is searching for a place where he can live beyond his past. His family has returned to Puerto Rico, and Ernest remains in the States, desiring only distance from his memories of childhood displacement and work, his parents’ tumultuous relationship, and his own love for Magdalene. Magdalene, too, looks to move beyond her memories as she follows Ernest’s family home, seeking resolution to her mother’s hurtful secrets, her father’s unknown identity, and her love for Ernest.
As Ernest moves through the fields of Michigan, as Magdalene traverses the jungles of Puerto Rico and the shores of the Caribbean, they discover that their dreams and identities are linked within the framework of their families and their pasts. Together, Ernest and Magdalene must come to terms with the secrets and mistakes made by the previous generation, the histories of disloyalty and abandonment, of secrecy and sorrow.
Their struggles take place in a region of lost names, where loves and memories are banished and found. Fred Arroyo writes a story in two voices, following Ernest and Magdalene by turns in prose that is elegant and lyrical. His words evoke another world lush with the scent of salt spray, the taste of mangoes, and the rush of leaves, alive with characters whose ardors and pathos are achingly real. Arroyo explores the ebb and flow between past and present and themes that are enduring. Ultimately, Ernest and Magdalene must live with more than their memories; they must rediscover the intimacies of the region of lost names.
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"The Region of Lost Names" is absolutely enchanting. It has this tremendous pull, laying its characters bare in a way that is simultaneously warm and urgent, that grabbed me right away. While reading, it felt like it had a certain music to it, quiet but insistent. I don't necessarily mean that the language was more poetry than prose or that it had a musicality in its sounds, not that it didn't have some of that as well, but more that the thoughts and the narrative played a music of emotions outside of the music of sound. And the emotions stirred were beautiful. They just seemed so honest, the kind of truth that can only be found in fiction. Never melodramatic, maudlin, or overly sentimental. I never felt manipulated. Instead I just felt. For the characters and for their interconnections to and with each other. The book is gratifying to read, beautiful in a haunting way.