Perfect for fans of Alice Hoffman, Isabel Allende, and Sarah Addison Allen, this is a gorgeously written novel about a family searching for the truth hidden in their past and the power they’ve inherited, from the author of the acclaimed and “giddily exciting” (The New York Times Book Review) Brooklyn Brujas series
The book cover read like my kind of thing. In fact, it read so much like my kind of thing, that a part of me was wary. Sometimes the books you feel are written for you, the ones you are sure you will love, can be the ones who disappoint you the most. This is most assuredly not the case with Zoraida Córdova‘s The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina, one of the few books I’ve ever gotten an advanced copy for that I read not once, but twice, but three full times before sitting down to write this review.
And yet, I find there’s very little I want to give away from this beautiful tale. Very little you should know going in, except, maybe, that this is the kind of book that will stay with you. In a way, it reminded me a lot of being a teenager reading Isabel Allende or Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But The Interitance of Orquídea Divina isn’t trying to be those books, even if there’s a lot of magical realism to it, if anything, it’s the worthy successor to a style of writing I fell in love with when I was young, and that I’ve had a harder time finding these days.
It’s just …a way of living the story, a way of feeling it. Córdoba’s adult debut feels wholly different from her other books, and yet, at the same time, it feels strangely familiar. Like we know this writer, we understand her. Even if we hadn’t had a chance to read this particular version of her writing before.
We all have books that shaped us. When I read the blurb for The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina my eyes first strayed to the “perfect for fans of …Isabel Allende” part. That part expected this book to be similar in vein to Allende’s most well-know novel, The House of the Spirits, a novel I personally adore. Instead, it reminded me more of Allende’s Portrait in Sepia. For some, this might seem like a step down. For me, however, it was the opposite way around. Portrait in Sepia just happens to be my favorite Allende book, and one of my favorite books all-around.
It’s not just about the family, not in that book, and not in The Interitance of Orquídea Divina, even though in many ways, it is. It’s not just about one person, either – the book follows the Montoya family throughout generations and very different settings, from Ecuador to New York City to Four Rivers. And it’s not even about the magic that surrounds the family, or it’s titular character.
However, I want to make one thing clear. If I’ve frightened you with my comparison with some of the pillars of Latin American literature, this book turns out to be the best of both worlds. I will fight anyone who has anything bad to say about Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, but I fully understand that book isn’t for everyone. The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina, however, is a much easier, and in many ways, just as enchanting read.
The mystery will captivate some. The magic will draw in others. The bonds between people will probably be enough to draw in whoever is left. And if, for some reason, those things don’t make you want to open the book, give it a try just for this: the writing is the kind that makes the things you’re reading come to life in front of you. The kind that breathes life into stories, into characters.
And if you do perhaps, like me, you will close the last page and realize the Montoyas haven’t left you. If so, all I can say is …take a moment and open the book again. I did, and I don’t regret it one bit.
The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is available today, wherever books are sold.