After the Hurricane: A Novel (Hardcover)
Named by Etaf Rum as one of the Best Beach Reads of All Time for "Read with Jenna!"
Reminiscent of Gabriela Garcia’s Of Women and Salt, Leah Franqui brings us an engrossing, deeply personal novel with a mystery at its heart as a daughter returns to Puerto Rico to search for her troubled father, who has gone missing after Hurricane Maria.
From the outside, Elena Vega’s life appears to be an easy one: the only child of two professional parents, private school, NYU. But her twenties are aimless and lacking in connection. Something has always been amiss in her life: her father, the brilliant but deeply troubled Santiago Vega.
Born in rural Puerto Rico, Santiago arrived in New York as a small child. His harsh, mercurial father returned to the island, leaving Santiago to be raised by his mentally ill mother and his formidable grandmother. An outstanding student, he followed scholarships to Stanford, then Yale Law, marrying Elena’s mother along the way. Santiago is the shining star of his migrant family—the one who made it out and struck it rich. But he is a haunted man, plagued by trauma, bipolar disorder, and alcoholism. He’s lost contact with Elena over the years and returned to San Juan to wrestle his demons alone.
Then Hurricane Maria strikes, and Santiago vanishes. Desperate to know what happened to the father she once adored, Elena returns to Puerto Rico, a place she loved as a child but hasn’t seen in years. There she must unravel the truth about who her father is, crisscrossing the storm-swept island and reaching deep into his family tree to find relatives she’s never met, each of whom seems to possess a clue about Santiago’s fate.
A compelling mystery unfolds, as Elena is reunited with family, and with a place she loved and lost—the island of Puerto Rico, which is itself a character in this book. It’s a story of connection, migration, striving, love, and loss, illuminated by humor and affection, written by a novelist at the height of her gifts.
"After the Hurricane is a love letter to the diaspora of Puerto Rican Americans whose heritages straddle an ocean in geography and heart. Leah Franqui bravely tackles what it means to be a modern hija/daughter of an absent father (both biological and ancestral) searching for identity in the wake of Hurricane Maria. I cried. I laughed. I wanted to reach out and hold her characters' hands." — Sarah McCoy, New York Times bestselling author of Mustique Island
“Heartfelt . . . . A moving reflection on love and loss" — Publishers Weekly
"Family memory and trauma are at the center of this poignant novel, which follows a daughter who returns to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in search of her vanished father, a brilliant attorney struggling with mental health and alcoholism." — New York Times Book Review
“Moving . . . very much a coming-of-age narrative." — Booklist
“Compelling… a strong contemporary story about cross-cultural alliances, the bonds of family and what it means to ‘learn America.’” — USA Today on America for Beginners
“Extremely moving…gorgeous.” — New York Post on America for Beginners
“I loved this beautiful, deeply human tale. Exquisitely written with humor and tenderness, this novel is a perceptive exploration of prejudice, cultural differences, the American dream, and ultimately, the kindness and love that binds us all—a timely reminder of life’s profound possibilities when we open our hearts. This is one magnificent read!” — Amita Trasi, bestselling author of The Color of Our Sky, on America for Beginners
“Mother Land is as much a treatise on what it means to belong to oneself as it is a story of two women from opposing cultures.... [The] women discover they are not so different and learn from one another a secret to happiness that surprises them both.” — San Francisco Book Review
“Unexpected...funny and relatable...[A] tender tale of two women who are lost and alone, but who eventually become allies and each other’s biggest champions.” — BookPage (starred review)