An historic story of affection and loss finds new life amongst Afro-Latinx teenagers in Lilliam Rivera’s new younger grownup novel, By no means Look Again.
Pheus — brief for Orpheus — has spent his entire life within the Bronx, charming everybody within the neighborhood together with his charisma and his stunning voice. He plans to spend a straightforward summer time singing bachata and taking part in his guitar on the seashore. However all of that modifications when he meets Eury.
Eury is visiting her cousin for the summer time, nonetheless reeling from the lack of her residence in Hurricane Maria and the entire trauma that entails. To make issues worse, she’s sure that the struggling brought on by the hurricane is definitely her fault. Since childhood, she’s been haunted by an evil spirit that calls himself Ato. He’ll do no matter is critical to tug Eury away from mortal life and drive her to dwell with him ceaselessly within the underworld. He adopted her from Puerto Rico to Florida, and now she’s sure that he’ll flip up within the Bronx. However she will’t even warn her household of the hazard with out making them afraid for her psychological well being, as a result of nobody will consider that it is a spirit tormenting her and never simply post-traumatic stress.
When she meets Pheus and he sings to her, some little a part of her coronary heart begins to hope once more. Possibly she will overcome all of the troubles that hang-out her and love a boy with a voice like magic. For straightforward-going Pheus, Eury represents a complexity that is utterly outdoors of his expertise. However to win her love, he’d do absolutely anything — even journey to the underworld to win her again from an evil spirit.
The metaphor on the heart of Orpheus and Eurydice is a strong one — typically, to be able to transfer ahead, you’ll be able to’t look again. It is simple to know why this can be a story that weaves its means by means of all of the layers of tales that we inform one another. It is nearly ironic that now, at this second when the entire world is experiencing a trauma collectively and dealing with a actuality ceaselessly altered, this specific story appears to be floating near the floor.
By no means Look Again positively brings one thing new to the desk by making these epic star-crossed lovers into Afro-Latinx teenagers in New York. In some variations of the story, Eurydice feels nearly like an afterthought — a lady who exists solely to create an ordeal for the hero. It is so typically all about Orpheus and his expertise and his journey. Right here, Eury represents a complete renovation of their dynamic. She involves the desk together with her personal baggage and her personal story — and whereas Pheus has an arc, Eury’s trauma and the query of whether or not or not she will overcome it are the guts of the ebook. Evaluating By no means Look Again to different variations of the parable, the centering of Eury’s journey actually shines.
However in some methods, By no means Look Again is at its strongest when its supply materials could be forgotten. As a fantasy and folklore fanatic, I have a tendency to enter a retelling with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. As if to say, okay, I do know who these persons are and what they do — impress me! And as I started By no means Look Again, I famous the names — a lot of the characters are named after figures from Greek mythology — and actually felt a bit aggravated. It did not really feel sensible. After which, as Greek mythology blended with Taino and different Afro-Caribbean beliefs, I spotted that it does not matter. This is not a note-for-note retelling. It is one thing else altogether: a pensive exploration of the deep trauma traditionally suffered by colonized and enslaved peoples and the way that entwines with newer hardships, like Hurricane Maria, whose harm is worsened by the remnants of those self same establishments.
That looks as if loads for a YA novel, however By no means Look Again wraps its deeper musings in a languid summer time romance between two earnest teenagers whose charisma ensures that the reader will maintain strolling ahead by means of the story. Whereas some a part of me would possibly want the mythology was a bit extra streamlined, I can not deny that By no means Seems to be Again sings its personal love tune to the world. I am certain that readers will comply with the place it leads.
Caitlyn Paxson is a author and performer. She is an everyday reviewer for NPR Books and Quill & Quire.