One young woman’s search for belonging and self-acceptance, by author Alex Poppe
Sixteen-year-old Lava lives in Detroit, Michigan, with her mother, Lila Guajardo. Her alcoholic, drug addicted father, Jesse, is serving time in prison for drugs offences, and Lila struggles to cope with the demands of life and motherhood. As Lila grieves for the loss of her lover, she spirals into a deep depression. Lava’s only support and positive adult role model is Cody Ryan, a thirty-three-year-old Iraq war veteran who is a boarder in the family home. When Jesse is released from prison, he returns to the family home, and life for Lava becomes even more difficult. Cody is forced to leave, and Jesse continues to abuse drugs and alcohol. When Jesse asks Lava to do the unthinkable and use her own urine to pass his drug tests, she rebels and deliberately sabotages the test. Jesse confronts Lava, a fight breaks out and Lava is accidentally stabbed. Jesse is recalled to prison and Lila blames Lava. Unable to forgive her daughter, Lila evicts Lava from the family home and sends her to live with her cousin in Spain.
Lava reluctantly moves to Seville and meets her mother’s cousin, Lola, a well-known and enigmatic flamenco dancer and teacher. Lava immerses herself into the culture, enrolling in Spanish language classes, and joining flamenco dance classes at Lola’s studio. She falls in love with flamenco and uses the dance to express her feelings, emotions and sensuality. As Lava settles into life in Seville, she meets new friends and experiences her first love, but her relationship with Lola is strained. Lola tolerates the teen, but is distant and elusive. As Lava attempts to learn more about her mother’s mysterious cousin, she soon discovers a dark family secret and the real reason she was sent to Seville.
Duende by author Alex Poppe is a beautifully written and well-crafted coming of age novella, about one young woman’s journey from Detroit to Seville, and her search for belonging and self-acceptance. Lava’s journey of self-discovery is beautifully told through the rhythm and vibrations of flamenco music and dance. Poppe is a gifted storyteller – her prose is rich and lyrical, passionate and sensual. With vivid descriptions of flamenco and Seville, this novella is a beautiful homage to this unique artform and the place where it originated.
The novella is suitable for both teen and adult readers, and will particularly appeal to those who are interested in Spanish culture and flamenco.
Star rating: 5 Stars
Summary: A beautifully written and well-crafted novella, and a wonderful homage to flamenco and Seville.