reviews

Reviews | Excerpt

“An intriguing debut and an elegiac, miniature entry in the literature of Latin American diaspora that will break your heart.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Zambrano’s stellar debut is proof positive that good things come in small packages.”
Booklist, Starred Review

“Lotería is Zambrano’s debut in the world of literary fiction after he made a drastic change from professional ballet dancer to author, and it is inspiring to discover that his work does not fall short of our high expectations for any literary writer’s first book.”
The Colorodo Review

“An incredible first novel.”
The Village Voice

“The broken tale and imaginative first-person narration lend weight to this curious novel. It’s an impressive first step for an artist exploring a new medium.”
Kirkus Reviews

Loteria is an emotionally stirring book. It incites deep feeling over the course of three or four pages: it does not need to to build over hundreds of pages to “earn” a height of feeling, as many novels do.”
Fiction Writers Review

“Zambrano has meticulously organized Luz’s anecdotes and associations in order to tell two stories: the implied story of Luz’s present reality as she writes alone in her room, reeling from an apocalyptic loss, and the spinning mobile of stories and memories that the cards reveal.”
The Rumpus

“Two previous attempts have been made to employ the lotería as a sustained trope in a fictional narrative: Lotería: And Other Stories (1998) by Rubén Mendoza and ¡Caramba!: A Tale Told in Turns of the Card (2004) by Nina Marie Martínez, but neither project had the shelf-life that Zambrano’s compelling and powerful first novel is likely to achieve.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

“A sly debut novel.”
Chicago Tribune

“Eleven year old Luz Castillo is a ward of the state with a family in tatters. Refusing to speak to the adults who wish to help her, she relies on a deck of illustrated game cards to reveal her story. This striking coming-of-age novel shares the visceral emotional power of Villette and We the Animals. ”
Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers

“Zambrano effectively uses his string of short-story-like entries to make Luz a many-faceted diamond, hardened by life but still filled with light and beauty.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Sometimes what Zambrano leaves off the page is just as important as what’s been written. This narrative sleight of hand shows Zambrano’s gift for evoking great pain in stark, lyrical sketches.”
Los Angeles Times

“Zambrano’s debut novel, “Lotería,” is a polished tome of prose unreeling the tale of plucky little Luz Maria Castillo in the game of chance called life.”
The Houston Chronicle

“Between the Spanish dialogue and slang sprinkled liberally throughout the book, and its emphasis on cultural dissonance and family violence in the Latin-American community, “Lotería” shares much in common with recent work by Justin Torres (“We the Animals”) and Junot Diaz (“The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”). Its focus on Mexican-American life evokes the classic coming-of-age novel by Sandra Cisneros, “The House on Mango Street.”
The Atlanta Journal-Consitution

“Lotería is the written evidence of Luz’s transformation — the chisel-marks left on the walls in the cell from which we are to believe she bloodily escaped. Why not see them? Why not wonder? Where there’s love there’s life, and Zambrano’s novel is bright with both.”
Full Stop

“Zambrano’s prose is simple, polished, not without moments of poetry where Luz thinks poetry or beauty would better lend themselves to her tale. Fans of Garcia Marquez and Isabelle Allende will very much enjoy this book.”
The Literary Man

“His restraint from sentimentality, his mastery of well-made sentences and his rich imagination lift words off the page — like dancers in a ballet.”
National Post: Canada

“An original and beautifully written debut.”
New York Post, Required Reading

“This [Loteria] is a gripping, heartbreaking novel by a new writer who already understands the power of understatement and controlled revelation.”
El Paso Times

“In “Lotería: A Novel,” debut novelist Mario Alberto Zambrano makes the cards, used in a Mexican game as the visual counterpart of the numbers in bingo, serve as writing prompts. They’re not instruments of divination like tarot cards, but, like the tarot deck, the simple, traditional design of the Lotería cards gives them a touch of the archetypal.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“Luz’s (and by extension Zambrano’s) refusal to give in to easy condemnations of her father’s actions, beautifully highlighted by genuinely difficult arguments between Luz and Estrella, is among this novel’s most risky and ultimately successful gambits.”
School Library Journal, Starred Review

“Zambrano—formerly a professional dancer but currently at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop—has made an amazing pirouette, life-changing no doubt. His second novel will need no illustrations.”
CounterPunch

“With the help of a deck of colorfully illustrated Mexican bingo cards, an eleven- year-old ward of the state tells her story in Mario Alberto Zambranos Lotería (Harper), which captures, from a wide-eyed yet uncloying child’s perspective, the way in which life can feel a lot like a game of chance.”
Vogue.com — Summer Reading List

“In this debut novel, a Mexican-American girl uses the game of Lotería to reveal her memories, which add up to a heart-wrenching tale of violence, love and a broken family.”
Los Angeles Times, Summer Reading Pick

“If anthropologists are right that culture is transmitted principally through the family, then childhood games are as much a part of culture as the novel, the modern manifestation of which was first elaborated by Cervantes between the end of the 16th century and beginning of the 17th. When game and novel come together, the results can be dazzling, as in Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch, or belabored, as in Arturo Pérez Reverte’s mystery, The Flanders Panel. Lotería, the promising first novelby Mario Alberto Zambrano, falls somewhere between these two extremes, though it spends a lot more time dazzling us than boring us.”
The Brooklyn Rail

“What’s most enjoyable about Lotería is how Zambrano takes the awkwardness of growing up second-generation – not an immigrant, but not exactly at home – and makes it seem less a marker of difference than a common fact of growing up in the U.S. in the late nineties.”
The Globe and Mail, Canada

“It’s a rare first novel that can appeal to partisans of both S.E. Hinton and Julio Cortázar, but Lotería does just that.”
The Millions

“Lotería should delight and disturb any reader sensitive to the ways of children and how they think and, more importantly, how deeply they feel.”
Dallas Morning News

“In his first novel, former professional ballet dancer Zambrano has found a way to mimic how memory works.”
The Columbus Dispatch

“This novel seems simple and straightforward at first, but in fact Loteria is anything but that: Mario Alberto Zambrano’s wonderful book is constructed as a beautiful, gripping, and lyrical set of riddles (asked and solved) about life—and—death matters in one family. Like the novels of Cortazar, its form is intricate and beautiful.”
Charles Baxter, author of Gryphon: New and Selected Stories and The Feast of Love

“In Lotería, Mario Alberto Zambrano performs a lyrical and formal sleight of hand conjuring a spiritually profound and deeply moving story of one young girl’s struggle to reconcile her losses and leave nothing to chance. Lotería is about everything that matters: innocence and experience, love and death but most of all it is about the healing powers of storytelling. Zambrano writes vibrantly about the fleeting moments that define so much of our lives managing always to reclaim and recapture the poetry of those evanescent memories. This gorgeous, one-of-a-kind debut, marks the emergence of a singular and powerful new literary voice.”
—Amber Dermont, New York Times Bestselling author of The Starboard Sea and Damage Control: Stories

“In a bold, deeply-felt debut Mario Alberto Zambrano brings us tragedy made powerful through a small girl’s touching voice.  Her great gift is the joy she brings to this sorrow-filled story, matched only by the joy we feel in getting to know her.  Luz embraces us as fearlessly as she does life, as whole-heartedly as Zambrano does the story of her richly complex, fully felt family.  These are people who hold on to each other so hard it hurts.  And this moving novel will hug you too, every bit as tight.”
—Josh Weil, author of The New Valley

“Mario Alberto Zambrano’s Lotería is a tender, beautifully written story. In every line, Zambrano finds the happy and sad music of childhood. It is an entrancing work.”
—Lynne Tillman, author of Someday This Will Be Funny

“Take the architecture of Italo Calvino’s The Castle of Crossed Destinies and marry it to the wide-open childhood receptivity of Carson McCullers’s The Member of the Wedding, and you might achieve something like the effect of Lotería, but the tone Zambrano strikes here is entirely his own. Luz, the book’s young narrator, is at once rueful and playful, innocent and canny, with the true breath of life about her, and when she finally lays the last of her cards before you, you’ll feel that you know her as well as you do your own family.
—Kevin Brockmeier, author of The History of the Dead and The Illumination 

“If a book can be a spirit, this one is lithe, beautiful, and true. Mario Alberto Zambrano brings the heart of an artist immersed in movement and music to his prose and the result is dazzling.”
—Ru Freeman, author of A Disobedient Girl 

Lotería is a taut, fraught, look at tragedy, its aftermath, and the stories we tell ourselves to survive. With suspense, dread, and always the possibility for redemption, we watch as Zambrano flips the cards of chance and fate.”
—Justin Torres, author of We The Animals

“What a joy to discover a new writer like Mario Alberto Zambrano!  His novel, Lotería, charms on every page, despite heartache, love and loss, not only through its clever structure, but through his invention of Luz, our eleven year old fortune teller and storyteller.  The beauty and joy of her voice overcomes the hardships of her life, and by the end we have fallen in love.  Bravo to a marvelous debut!”
—Andrew Sean Greer, author of The Confessions of Max Tivoli and The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells