A debut novel set in Costa Rica between the Civil War of 1948 and the mid-1990s, following three generations of women in a family as they grapple with the specter of colonialism, the toxicity of American agribusiness, and long-buried family secrets, exploring how the tides of history and international politics impact their lives.
WHERE THERE WAS FIRE
by John Manuel Arias
Flatiron/St. Martin’s Press, November 2022
In this lush, lyrical debut, Teresa Cepeda is staring down old age alone, estranged from her eldest daughter, Lyra. With her husband missing and her youngest dead, Teresa’s only companion is the petulant ghost of her mother, Amarga. But when an aberrant hurricane makes landfall in San Jose’s Valley, an unexpected visitor—the grandson she love but was never permitted to meet—arrives on her doorstep. Thirty years ago, when Teresa’s husband murdered Amarga and burned the American Fruit Corporation to the ground, Teresa was forced to flee Costa Rica. Now that her grandson is asking questions, will the Cepedas learn why their patriarch committed these shocking acts of violence? Will Lyra finally forgive Teresa for abandoning her and her late sister when they were children? As the hurricane wreaks havoc, the Cepedas will need to reconcile soon—if at all. Brimming with ancestral spirits, omens, and the anthropomorphic forces of nature, Where There Was Fire weaves a brilliant tapestry of love, loss, secrets, and redemption. John Manuel Arias chronicles the rich history of Costa Rica from the civil war in 1948 through the mid-1990s and shows how the lives of one family are intertwined with the tides of history and international politics.
John Manuel Arias is a gay, Costa Rican and Uruguayan writer back in Washington, DC after many years. He is a Canto Mundo fellow & alumnus of the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop. His fiction has found homes in Joyland Magazine, The Kenyon Review, Barren Magazine and F(r)iction. His poetry has appeared in several literary magazines, including PANK, Platypus Press, Sixth Finch, the Journal, and Assaracus: A Journal of Gay Poetry, with poems forthcoming in The Offing and The Minnesota Review. He has been nominated for both the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net three times. WHERE THERE WAS FIRE is his debut novel. Before DC, he lived in Costa Rica with his grandmother and four ghosts.