We are excited to share some specifics about novelist and WU contributor Natalia Sylvester’s latest release with you, Everyone Knows You Go Home, which you’ll be able to purchase/read this Tuesday, March 13th. The novel, which has already been named one of the best books of 2018 by Real Simple, follows her successful debut, Chasing the Sun. Natalia, who studied creative writing at the University of Miami and is a faculty member of the low-res MFA program at Regis University in Denver, Colorado, was born in Lima, Peru, and came to the U.S. at age four.
Said author Cristina Henríquez (The Book of Unknown Americans) of Everyone Knows You Go Home:
“I was charmed by this novel from the start, and when a character from the afterlife shows up—and when no one in the book thinks it unusual or strange—I was smitten. This is the tangled history of one family’s past and present both here and beyond. Sylvester’s gift is that she’s able to infuse it, in more ways than one, with extraordinary spirit and life.”
Natalia hopes she’ll be able to meet some of you on her book tour, which begins in her hometown on March 21st: Austin, Texas. Natalia will visit other locations in Texas as well as in Florida, California, and New York. Visit her Facebook page for more information.
Q1: What’s the premise of your new book?
“They were married on the Day of the Dead, el Día de los Muertos, which no one gave much thought to in all the months of planning until the bride’s deceased father-in-law showed up in the car following the ceremony.”
This is the first line of the book, which was also the first line that came to me in the first draft. It set the premise, tone, and promise for the rest of the story.
Q2: What would you like people to know about the story itself?
NS: My novel traces the lives of two generations of a Mexican American family after they come to the US to try and make a home here. It’s about immigration and love and redemption and motherhood and grief and marriage. It’s also a story about the ways we protect our families, and how sometimes that means hiding the truth, and how sometimes that means the pain of not knowing is passed down through generations. Like all stories, it’s never one story about one thing.
Q3: What do your characters have to overcome in this story? What challenge do you set before them?
NS: I try not to think of it as me setting challenges before them—I think there are ways we talk about craft that need to be questioned and examined to account for our own privilege (which is a whole other post…my next perhaps?). Instead I see them as real people who come not only with their own set of challenges but also their own joys and triumphs.
I think this is why I was drawn to writing a novel about both life and death, because things like joy and pain, love and grief, so often co-exist. So my characters Martin and Isabel are beginning their life as newlyweds, but they can’t escape the hidden parts of their pasts that haunt them. When the spirit of Isabel’s father-in-law shows up, and no one else will talk to him because he abandoned his family years ago, she and him develop a special bond. He visits every year on her wedding anniversary, and every year she listens to him, trying to piece the family’s history together…but her doing so threatens to tear apart her young marriage.
Q4: What unique challenges did this book pose for you, if any?
NS: The structure was something that took me many drafts to develop. There’s a dual timeline and multiple POVs. I originally began writing the book by switching back and forth as I wrote, but halfway through my first draft, I decided I needed to write each story individually, all the way through, and then weave them together. By the end I realized the structure wasn’t as simple as alternating the timelines or POVs. It actually revealed itself to be kind of similar to life and death, in that the structure is almost cyclical, beginning again where it ends.
Q5: What has been the most rewarding aspect of having written this book?
NS: There are several things in this book that came from anecdotes, questions, and memories that have stayed with me for years and years. I never knew if I’d write about them, or if I did, in what story. The fact that so many of the questions I’ve kept coming back to my whole life manifested on the page really surprised me. I don’t know that I answered them all, but I do feel the writing helped me better understand them.