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Familia  by Lauren E. Rico
Contemporary fiction

Familia

by Lauren E. Rico

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Quick take

Asking big questions, this moving novel follows sisters separated at birth who reunite to untangle their complex past.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Emotional

    Emotional

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MultipleNarrators

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NonLinear

    Nonlinear timeline

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Siblings

    Siblings

Synopsis

What if your most basic beliefs about your life were suddenly revealed to be a lie?

As the fact checker for a popular magazine, Gabby DiMarco believes in absolute, verifiable Truths—until they throw the facts of her own life into question. The genealogy test she took as research for an article has yielded a baffling result: Gabby has a sister—one who’s been desperately trying to find her. Except, as Gabby’s beloved parents would confirm if they were still alive, that’s impossible.

Isabella Ruiz can still picture the face of her baby sister, who disappeared from the streets of San Juan twenty-five years ago. Isabella, an artist, has fought hard for the stable home and loving marriage she has today—yet the longing to find Marianna has never left. At last, she’s found a match, and Gabby has agreed to come to Puerto Rico.

But Gabby, as defensive and cautious as Isabella is impulsive, offers no happy reunion. She insists there’s been a mistake. And Isabella realizes that even if this woman is her sister, she may not want to be.

With nothing—or perhaps so much—in common, Gabby and Isabella set out to find the truth, though it means risking everything they’ve known for an uncertain future—and a past that harbors yet more surprises . . .

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Content warning

This book contains mentions of sexual assault and infertility.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Familia.
Familia

PROLOGUE

ALBERTO

That Day

Alberto never understood why people were afraid of the dark. Ever since he was a little boy, he’d welcomed the pitch black like an old friend. Whether the dark came of its own accord—like at the end of the day, or if he beckoned it with sleep, or booze, or drugs, it never failed to pull him into its open arms, wrapping him in black silky oblivion. It offered protection—if only for a few hours—from the brutal realities laid bare by the rising sun.

No, Alberto was not afraid of the dark, but the light scared the living shit out of him. And right now, the two seemed to be battling for control of his body. The daylight pulled him up briefly—just long enough for the pain to register. But then the tendrils of black unconsciousness coiled around his thoughts, pulling him back down into the deep end of oblivion. Sometime later, something beckoned him back up toward the surface. Something important. It was right there in front of him, but he was having trouble wresting himself from the blissful safety of the dark. Still, the daylight pulled at him, drawing him further and further out of himself and up toward the surface. And the closer he came, the more agonizing it was.

Every blink, every breath, every single twitch of movement sent searing pain rippling through his muscles, and he became aware of something digging into his face. Pebbles? He realized he must be lying facedown on the street. The thought was enough to make him open his eyes, which were immediately assaulted by the early morning sun. He closed them again more tightly this time, but it didn’t matter. An aura of red shone through the delicate flesh of his lids, backlighting the tiny blood vessels and causing spots to float across his vision. There would be no more retreat into the black oblivion today.

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Why I love it

Lauren E. Rico steps into her own as an author in Familia and I am 100% here for it. Her powerful narrative traces the heartbreaking journey of a family ripped apart by fate and tragedy. It weaves a beautiful tale that spans time, place, and culture to show the resilient and redemptive power of family bonds.

While still grieving the untimely death of their wife and mother, a young Puerto Rican family is dealt a second tragic blow when their youngest child, Marianna, is kidnapped. This sends the girls’ father into a torpor. But Isabella, the older of the two children, never gives up hope that she can find her baby sister one day.

Fast forward a decade: Gabby is a journalist at a popular magazine and has taken a genealogy test as research for a story. And lo and behold, she finds herself a 50% DNA match with Isabella Ruiz. Neither of them are prepared for the twisting, sleuthing crime-solving mystery that this sets in motion, and they must grapple with the gritty reality of having the family they always dreamed of, but may not actually want.

Rico masterfully tackles many difficult topics—alcohol abuse, kidnapping, grief, violence, and questions of personal identity. But her vivid characters, flowing prose, and touching story make Familia a book worth moving to the top of your TBR pile.

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