Book Review: The Season of Stories by Silvio Sirias
I’ve been hooked on Silvio Sirias’s books since I read his first novel, Bernardo and the Virgin, a masterpiece of historical fiction which brings the Nicaraguan landscape and people to life, while at the same time teaching the reader about a remarkable slice of Central American history. I also loved his second novel, Meet Me Under the Ceiba (Arte Publico Press, 2009, winner of the Chicano/Latino Literary Prize), and not just because it takes place in the same tiny Nicaraguan village of Pio XII, where I lived as a Peace Corps trainee in 1998 (see: “Nicaragua is a place of Wonders: a chat with Silvio Sirias”), but because it too was masterfully told.
Flash forward seven years to Sirias’s newest venture, The Season of Stories (Anaphora Literary Press, 2016). Sirias, a Nicaraguan-American novelist who lives in Panama City, continues to prove his prowess for weaving fiction and nonfiction to create bright, exciting quilts of color. In The Season of Stories, he also weaves two totally separate narratives, occurring 500 years apart, yet slowly, surprisingly, converging as he alternates chapters between them.
In one narrative, the Indian princess Anayansi witnesses and participates in the first Spanish settlements in Central America, specifically the arrival of Vasco Núñez de Balboa and Pedrarías Dávila. The other takes place during the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball season of 1961, the year 12-year-old Diego Miranda’s life changes when his parents inform him that they are moving back to their homeland, Nicaragua. It is a shock for him, but in the end, Diego’s open mind about the adventure ahead is a sentiment I could recognize: “Nicaragua called to me like a beacon signaling the location of a treasure chest full of bright, new experiences. Or, better yet, a treasure chest full of bright, new stories.”
By a stroke of serendipity, I read The Season of Stories while traveling in Nicaragua. I was there researching baseball stories, of all things, which connected me with the 1961 narrative, each night in my hotel as I read it. Then I stopped at The Ruins of Old León—one of the oldest Spanish colonial settlements in the Americas, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the place where Pedrarias Davila’s remains (and Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba’s headless corpse) were recently discovered. Stepping through the mosquito-clouded, heat-soaked archaeological site helped bring Sirias’s scenes of the original conquest to life for me. So perhaps I’m a biased, having read this book partially in situ, with so many visceral connections between the words and the reality around me. Or perhaps that’s just the way the story was supposed to go.
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MORE INFO: The Season of Stories on Amazon.com