One night in Costa Rica, 1968, a banana plantation is razed by fire and a family violently implodes. Thirty years later, the root cause remains a mystery for those left in its tragic wake to solve, but first Teresa and her estranged daughter must find a way back to each other, back to the complicated bond of their family. This astonishing multi-generational debut is rich with Costa Rican landscape and history, dynamic prose, and so many spirits waiting to tell their stories. I loved it...more, please.— MELINDA
A lush and atmospheric novel about three generations of a Costa Rican family wrestling with a deadly secret, from rising literary star John Manuel Arias
“An exciting new voice with a prowess for lyricism.” ―Publishers Weekly
NATIONAL BESTSELLER * A B&N DISCOVER PICK * A GMA BUZZ PICK * MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF 2023: CrimeReads, Debutiful, Good Morning America, Library Journal, Zibby Mag, The San Francisco Chronicle, and more!
Costa Rica, 1968. When a lethal fire erupts at the American Fruit Company’s most lucrative banana plantation burning all evidence of a massive cover-up, and her husband disappears, the future of Teresa’s family is changed forever.
Now, twenty-seven years later, Teresa and her daughter Lyra are picking up the pieces. Lyra wants nothing to do with Teresa, but is desperate to find out what happened to her family that fateful night. Teresa, haunted by a missing husband and the bitter ghost of her mother, Amarga, is unable to reconcile the past. What unfolds is a story of a mother and daughter trying to forgive what they do not yet understand, and the mystery at the heart of one family’s rupture.
Brimming with ancestral spirits, omens, and the anthropomorphic forces of nature, John Manuel Arias weaves a brilliant tapestry of love, loss, secrets, and redemption in Where There Was Fire.
"A striking debut rich in secrets and sadness." ―Kirkus
"When poets write novels, you just know they'll be good ones." —Good Morning America
"John Manuel Arias weaves an ambitious story that exposes the costs of corporate greed while revealing the power of personal agency and the enduring bonds of family. This is a book you’ll want to read again and again." ―Cleyvis Natera, author of Neruda on the Park
“Lyrical and affecting.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"A sweeping portrait of a Costa Rican family that has the energy of a speeding train. Each sentence that John Manuel Arias writes carries the juice of great gossip, the lyricism of a favorite poem, and the blood of forgotten history. I will never forget this book." ―Melissa Lozada-Oliva, author of Dreaming of You
“This novel showcases its author’s lyrical gifts and deep, personal knowledge of Costa Rican history and agribusiness. In scintillating prose, John Manuel Arias, who is also a poet, tells the story of a family rent apart by the ruthless banana industry and a deadly fire that impacts multiple generations.” —The San Francisco Chronicle
“Every page is a masterclass in how to wrap a reader inside of a book. Simply put, this book will make you want to re-read it just to spend more time with the writing.” —Debutiful
“Vivid and rich.” –Lupita Aquino
"A haunting, operatic saga of family, history and place. Where There Was Fire beautifully braids love, lust, magic and the destructive power of man to wondrous and, at times, heartbreaking effect. Arias has created an utterly original, unforgettable tale of family that will sear a place in the reader's soul.” ―Xochitl Gonzalez, bestselling author of Olga Dies Dreaming
"Where There Was Fire reads as if enchanted by the spirit of an ancient and generous storyteller. How privileged we are to read of this memorable family! It is an astonishing debut novel, written in prose so atmospheric and poetic that I gasped too many times to count. Where There Was Fire quite literally took my breath away." ―Kali Fajardo-Anstine, ABA winner and bestselling author of Woman of Light and Sabrina & Corina
"An arresting tale of love, regret, and redemption. John Manuel Arias offers a searing look into the legacy of American agribusiness in Costa Rica and masterfully tells the story of a family fighting to put itself back together in the wake of unimaginable loss. As poetic as it is powerful, Where There Was Fire burns with rage and grief, and most of all, hope." ―Jenny Tinghui Zhang, author of Four Treasures of the Sky