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Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo
Magical realism

Family Lore

by Elizabeth Acevedo

Quick take

When an anthropologist puts her own family under the microscope, she uncovers plenty of secrets, drama, and magic.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MultipleNarrators

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NonLinear

    Nonlinear timeline

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Literary



Flor has a gift: she can predict, to the day, when someone will die. So when she decides she wants a living wake—a party to bring her family and community together to celebrate the long life she’s led—her sisters are surprised. Has Flor foreseen her own death, or someone else’s? Does she have other motives? She refuses to tell her sisters, Matilde, Pastora, and Camila.

But Flor isn’t the only person with secrets. Matilde has tried for decades to cover the extent of her husband’s infidelity, but she must now confront the true state of her marriage. Pastora is typically the most reserved sister, but Flor’s wake motivates this driven woman to solve her sibling’s problems. Camila is the youngest sibling, and often the forgotten one, but she’s decided she no longer wants to be taken for granted.

And the next generation, cousins Ona and Yadi, face tumult of their own: Yadi is reuniting with her first love, who was imprisoned when they were both still kids; Ona is married for years and attempting to conceive. Ona must decide whether it’s worth it to keep trying—to have a child, and the anthropology research that’s begun to feel lackluster.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Family Lore.

Why I love it

Family Lore is the intricate, sweeping story of the Martes, a family of Dominican-American women who possess magical gifts, from a supernatural talent on the dance floor to the ability to predict the day of someone’s death. The women’s gifts are wondrous, but it’s the soul-deep bonds they share that make this novel vibrant and unforgettable.

When 70-year-old Flor announces she’ll be hosting a living wake, her sisters, Camila, Pastora, and Matilde, draw around her, as does the next generation of Martes. Each woman is sorting through her own heartache: trouble conceiving and carrying a child, a reunion with a lover released from jail, an aging and unfaithful husband, and death itself, to name a few. Elizabeth Acevedo poignantly portrays each woman’s struggle, as well as how the Martes show up for one another, as they prepare for the wake and the family’s next chapter. To whom will they say good-bye? How will their family change and grow?

This novel got under my skin and into my heart. Acevedo is a masterful storyteller, as wise as she is funny, as tender as she is tough, and her characters are astonishingly real. I’ve recalled scenes from the novel as if they were stories passed down to me by loved ones. Who was it again who on her wedding night was dumped at a hotel while her husband went out to chase other women? Who was it who watched something sexy on her computer one night without knowing that her husband could hear? Who was it whose sister rescued her from that cruel aunt? This is how alive the Marte women have become to me—their family lore has become my own.

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Member ratings (3,559)

  • Heather C.

    Portland, OR

    This might be my favorite book of the year! The story follows 4 sisters from the DR, some with preternatural gifts, as they live their lives in NYC. Lyrical, gorgeous prose and incredible characters.

  • Beth H.

    Ashland , OH

    Such a beautifully written family saga. I was so invested in the Marte sisters and daughters. Their histories, dreams, hopes, desires, and gifts. God it was all just so achingly beautiful I loved it!

  • Julianne B.

    Fairfax, VA

    Pure magical realism! Latin American culture, history, & geography serve as the backdrop for the beautiful story. Moves back and forth in time (slightly hard to follow) but overall loved this book

  • Liz A.

    Westport, NY

    So much more than magical realism. A beautiful story about generations of women navigating relationships with each other and themselves. Full of emotions that transcend place and culture. Loved it.

  • Ileana C.

    New York, NY

    I love this book it felt so authentic and written by someone who knows the synthax and grammar of Caribbean Spanish diaspora English speakers. The family and characters are refreshing and lovely