A Haunting in Hialeah Gardens

Posted November 29, 2023 by Carole in Reviews / 6 Comments

I received this book for free from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A Haunting in Hialeah GardensA Haunting in Hialeah Gardens by Raul Palma
Narrator: Emmanuel Chumaceiro
Published by Dutton, Penguin Random House Audio on October 3, 2023
Genres: Fiction / Hispanic & Latino
Length: 8 hours 27 minutes
Pages: 288
Format: ARC, Audiobook
Source: Publisher
Amazon | Audible | B&N | Kobo | Libro.fm

A genre-bending debut with a fiercely political heart, A Haunting in Hialeah Gardens explores the weight of the devil’s bargain, following the lengths one man will go to for the promise of freedom.

Hugo Contreras’s world in Miami has shrunk. Since his wife died, Hugo’s debt from her medical bills has become insurmountable. He shuffles between his efficiency apartment, La Carreta (his favorite place for a cafecito), and a botanica in a strip mall where he works as the resident babaláwo.
One day, Hugo’s nemesis calls. Alexi Ramirez is a debt collector who has been hounding Hugo for years, and Hugo assumes this call is just more of the same. Except this time Alexi is calling because he needs spiritual help. His house is haunted. Alexi proposes a deal: If Hugo can successfully cleanse his home before Noche Buena, Alexi will forgive Hugo’s debt. Hugo reluctantly accepts, but there’s one issue: Despite being a babaláwo, he doesn’t believe in spirits.
Hugo plans to do what he’s done with dozens of clients before: use sleight of hand and amateur psychology to convince Alexi the spirits have departed. But when the job turns out to be more than Hugo bargained for, Hugo’s old tricks don’t work. Memories of his past—his childhood in the Bolivian silver mines and a fraught crossing into the United States as a boy—collide with Alexi’s demons in an explosive climax.
Equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, A Haunting in Hialeah Gardens explores questions of visibility, migration, and what we owe—to ourselves, our families, and our histories.

This was really good! Hugo works as a babaláwo even though he doesn’t believe in spirits. He recently lost his wife and is drowning in debt as a result of her medical care and is desperate to get ahead. When he gets a call for help from the same man who holds his debt, he can be rid of all of the debt if he just clears his home of spirits. Hugo may make a living doing this work but he doesn’t believe in any of it so what’s the harm if he makes his new client believe that his home is no longer haunted?

I liked Hugo. He was a flawed character with a lot of guilt over his wife’s death. He is not above using a few tricks to help his clients believe that he has rid their homes of spirits. Even though he did some things that I wouldn’t condone, I understood why he made some of the choices that he did. When it comes to his client, Alexi, it is really hard which one was the bad guy. I was completely drawn into this story and loved that there were quite a few surprises worked into the plot.

I listened to the audiobook and thought that Emmanuel Chumacerio did a great job with the story. I believe that this was my first experience listening to this narrator’s work but I wouldn’t hesitate to listen to his narration again in the future. I thought that he added just the right amount of emotion to his reading to really bring the story to life. I am certain that his narration added to my overall enjoyment of this story.

I would recommend this book to others. I was hooked by this story right away and couldn’t wait to see how things would work out for Hugo. I liked the way that the author wove Hugo’s past into the story and loved that I never knew which direction things would go. I would definitely read more of this author’s work in the future.

I received a review copy of this book from Dutton Books and Penguin Random House Audio.

6 responses to “A Haunting in Hialeah Gardens

  1. I am happy to hear that this one was such a win for you! If its well done, seeing the past blend with the present can add depth to the story.

    Great review.