The Cemetery of Untold Stories: A Novel (Hardcover)
Literary icon Julia Alvarez, the international bestselling author of In the Time of the Butterflies, returns with an inventive and emotional novel about storytelling that will be an instant classic.
Alma Cruz, the celebrated writer at the heart of The Cemetery of Untold Stories, doesn’t want to end up like her friend, a novelist who fought so long and hard to finish a book that it threatened her sanity. So when Alma inherits a small plot of land in the Dominican Republic, her homeland, she has the beautiful idea of turning it into a place to bury her untold stories—literally. She creates a graveyard for the manuscript drafts and revisions, and the characters whose lives she tried and failed to bring to life and who still haunt her.
Alma wants her characters to rest in peace. But they have other ideas, and the cemetery becomes a mysterious sanctuary for their true narratives. Filomena, a local woman hired as the groundskeeper, becomes a sympathetic listener as Alma’s characters unspool their secret tales. Among them: Bienvenida, the abandoned second wife of dictator Rafael Trujillo, consigned to oblivion by history, and Manuel Cruz, a doctor who fought in the Dominican underground and escaped to the United States.
The characters defy their author: they talk back to her and talk to one another behind her back, rewriting and revising themselves. The Cemetery of Untold Stories asks: Whose stories get to be told, and whose buried? Finally, Alma finds the meaning she and her characters yearn for in the everlasting vitality of stories.
Readers of Isabel Allende’s Violeta and Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead will devour Alvarez’s extraordinary new novel about beauty and authenticity, and will be reminded that the stories of our lives are never truly finished, even at the end.
About the Author
Julia Alvarez left the Dominican Republic for the United States in 1960 at the age of ten. She is the author of six novels, three books of nonfiction, three collections of poetry, and eleven books for children and young adults. She has taught and mentored writers in schools and communities across America and, until her retirement in 2016, was a writer in residence at Middlebury College. Her work has garnered wide recognition, including a Latina Leader Award in Literature from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, the Hispanic Heritage Award in Literature, the Woman of the Year by Latina magazine, and inclusion in the New York Public Library’s program “The Hand of the Poet: Original Manuscripts by 100 Masters, from John Donne to Julia Alvarez.” In the Time of the Butterflies, with over one million copies in print, was selected by the National Endowment for the Arts for its national Big Read program, and in 2013 President Obama awarded Alvarez the National Medal of Arts in recognition of her extraordinary storytelling.
“The Cemetery of Untold Stories asks us to consider if our tales will last forever or if they might one day be forever lost. Yet there is nothing to fear or lament in this reality—not when we are soothed by the balm of Alvarez’s tender wit and her large-hearted candor. What a blessing to have one of our finest writers assure us that indeed ‘we are in this story together.”
—Manuel Muñoz, author of The Consequences
“Julia Alvarez's thought-provoking and powerful The Cemetery of Untold Stories is a balancing act of the everyday and the magical, a blend of history and cuento. Through imperfect characters longing for love and fighting against el olvido, we are reminded that each of us is capable of terrible cruelty or incredible compassion, and that stories have the power to bring us together.”
—Jaquira Díaz, author of Ordinary Girls
“What a love letter not only to storytelling, but also to the tender, urgent, funny, heartbreaking reasons we tell stories in the first place. This cemetery is a fertile field of rebirth, reawakening, and joy. Every page overflows with delight and wisdom.”
—Stacey D’Erasmo, author of The Complicities
“Julia Alvarez delivers yet another glorious novel, this time about a very unique kind of love—the love of storytelling. Scheherazade-like, Alvarez keeps us hooked with surprising plot twists and revelations, and characters so captivating that we want to get lost in the corridors of their tales. Simply stated, this book is magical.”
—Rigoberto González, director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing, Rutgers University, and author of To the Boy Who Was Night: Poems Selected and New