Who said returning to paradise would be easy?

Rennie Falto moves to Puerto Rico, a place and culture unknown to him, to reconnect with his biological mother. Julia is beautiful, elegant, and a high-powered attorney determined to reclaim the son she gave up many years before. Once there, he must deal with Julia’s strong-willed nature, a department chair not thrilled with a Nuyorican on staff, squatters in the house he inherited, students frequently on strike, and a thirtysomething lover anxious to settle down. Most disturbing is that faculty and staff may be dying from cancer because the campus is a former U.S. military base where toxic munitions have been buried. Rennie soon finds himself working to expose the government’s lies, though he risks losing his job, his home and even the woman he loves.

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About the Book

When Rennie’s parents die in a freak accident, he does what they would have wanted and buries them in their homeland, Puerto Rico, the island of enchantment. There, in the small town they grew up in, he’s in for another shock: the woman who raised him was not his biological mother. His birth mother wants to get to know the son she gave up years earlier, but Rennie is still grieving and unable to accept the truth.

Adrift, with no family in New York and haunted by memories, Rennie is swayed by his birth mother’s constant pleading that he move to the island. A teaching job at a college in Puerto Rico decides it, and he finds himself flying “home” to a place and culture he knows only through his parents’ recollections.

Rennie soon finds out that life on the island is not at all enchanting. The university is woefully behind in terms of technology and academic culture. His students aren’t eager to learn English and they’re frequently on strike. And the department chair is not thrilled to have a Nuyorican on staff. Most disturbing, though, is the rumor that numerous faculty and staff are dying from cancer because the campus, a former U.S. military base, is full of buried munitions.

Working to expose the government’s lies, he risks losing his job, his home and even the woman he loves. In his debut novel, J.L. Torres captures the conflict and challenges experienced by Puerto Ricans returning to their “homeland.”

“The reader discovers a beautiful, troubled land and its citizens—the ones who stay as well as the ones who leave and sometimes return—suffering from a very real identity crisis. This is a good introduction to a cultural and political situation and to the post-colonial mindset of a people who were granted U.S. citizenship, but who do not enjoy all of its privileges.”—Judith Ortiz Cofer, author of Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood

“An elegant, heartbreaking novel imbued with a love for what is lost and later found. The Puerto Rican migration has come full circle … a land and its people are one and the same, no matter where one is standing.”—Ernesto Quiñonez, author of Bodega Dreams

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Publisher: Arte Publico
ISBN: 9781558857773
The Accidental Native represents a new phase of Puerto Rican literature, giving us a character that rebels against the usual and challenges what it means to be Puerto Rican, and the proscribed ways in which to be a Latino. It’s a new trend I’d like to see more of.
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