Raul Palma

Jan 15, 2024

A Haunting in Hialeah Gardens

A Novel

Dutton 2023

A genre-bending debut with a fiercely political heart, A Haunting in Hialeah Gardens (Dutton, 2023) explores the weight of the devil's bargain, following the lengths one man will go to for the promise of freedom.

Hugo Contreras's world in Miami has shrunk. Since his wife died, Hugo's debt from her medical bills has become insurmountable. He shuffles between his efficiency apartment, La Carreta (his favorite place for a cafecito), and a botanica in a strip mall where he works as the resident babaláwo.

One day, Hugo's nemesis calls. Alexi Ramirez is a debt collector who has been hounding Hugo for years, and Hugo assumes this call is just more of the same. Except this time Alexi is calling because he needs spiritual help. His house is haunted. Alexi proposes a deal: If Hugo can successfully cleanse his home before Noche Buena, Alexi will forgive Hugo's debt. Hugo reluctantly accepts, but there's one issue: Despite being a babaláwo, he doesn't believe in spirits.

Hugo plans to do what he's done with dozens of clients before: use sleight of hand and amateur psychology to convince Alexi the spirits have departed. But when the job turns out to be more than Hugo bargained for, Hugo's old tricks don't work. Memories of his past--his childhood in the Bolivian silver mines and a fraught crossing into the United States as a boy--collide with Alexi's demons in an explosive climax.

Equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, A Haunting in Hialeah Gardens explores questions of visibility, migration, and what we owe--to ourselves, our families, and our histories.

Raul Palma is a second generation Cuban American, born and raised in Miami. His short story collection In This World of Ultraviolet Light won the 2021 Don Belton prize. His writing has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, the Greensboro Review, Hayden Ferry Review and elsewhere. He teaches Fiction at Ithaca College, where he is the associate dean of faculty in the School of Humanities and Sciences. He has also taught at the Elmira Correctional Facility through Cornell University’s prison education program. He lives with his wife and daughter in Ithaca New York.

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Chris Holmes is Chair of Literatures in English and Associate Professor at Ithaca College. He writes criticism on contemporary global literatures. His book, Kazuo Ishiguro as World Literature, is under contract with Bloomsbury Publishing. He is the co-director of The New Voices Festival, a celebration of work in poetry, prose, and playwriting by up-and-coming young writers.

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Chris Holmes

Chris Holmes is Chair of Literatures in English and Associate Professor at Ithaca College. He writes criticism on contemporary global literatures. His book, Kazuo Ishiguro as World Literature, is under contract with Bloomsbury Publishing. He is the co-director of The New Voices Festival, a celebration of work in poetry, prose, and playwriting by up-and-coming young writers.

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