by Graciela Limon
Publication Date: September 30, 2005
Bind: Trade Paperback
This novel explores the lives behind the news stories about mothers who kill their children.
“I’d like to hear you tell me of your first recollections. You were a baby when it happened, so it’s important to know when you began to take things in after that,” Elena Santos asks Rafael Cota.
“It. Things. You can use the word murder. I’m used to it.”
Rafael lives under the dark shadow of a violent crime, and he also lives with the knowledge that his mother was accused and convicted of the murder of his three older siblings. But Rafael’s a survivor, and all his life, he’s been prepared to fight with his anger, his energy, and even his sanity to defend his family. Rafael’s life has been a downward spiral since that murky night. He’s haunted by nightmares, both in waking and sleep, of what happened and his own struggle to understand why he was saved.
When he’s given a chance to tell his story to Elena Santos, a reporter for The Register, Cota jumps at the chance. What begins as a simple search for a meaty story to make her career leads Elena into the tangled mind of the sole survivor, as he tries to use her to prove his mother’s innocence. Through interviews, she follows him on every step of his search: from Los Angeles to Mexico, from the jail at San Quentin to his father’s house. Soon, Elena begins to doubt everything she once held true.
Limón explores Rafael’s mental anguish within the greater context of such myths as Medea and La Llorona (the Crying Woman). Her deft, humane touch alternates between the poetic and the dramatic, as Rafael recounts his search for the truth that defines his very existence.
“A mother accused of killing all but one of her children, her son, who grows into the twist of dark psychosis, and a reporter who is compelled to find the truth. Graciela Limón hits all the right notes in this novel. Left Alive is a compelling read.”—Marcos McPeek Villatoro, author of Home Killings
“Very few will guess the resolution of this gripping and heartbreaking novel.”—MultiCultural Review
GRACIELA LIMÓN is the critically-acclaimed and award-winning author of four novels: The Day of the Moon (1999), Song of the Hummingbird (1996), The Memories of Ana Calderón (1994) and In Search of Bernabé (1993). In Search of Bernabé, translated and published in Spanish as En busca de Bernabé in 1997, is the recipient of an American Book Award. It was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times’ Art Sydenburg First Novel Award and was named a “Notable Book of the Year” by The New York Times Book Review. Limon is Professor Emeritus of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles where she served as a professor of U.S. Latina/o Literature and Chair of the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies.