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A Haunting in Hialeah Gardens by Raul Palma (Hardcover)

A Haunting in Hialeah Gardens by Raul Palma (Hardcover)

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Fiction - Literary - Magical Realism


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

Since his wife died, Hugo Contreras’s debt from her medical bills has become insurmountable. His world in Miami has shrunk. 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's Ferry Review, and elsewhere. He teaches fiction at Ithaca College, where he is the associate dean of faculty in Ithaca College's School of Humanities and Sciences. A Haunting in Hialeah Gardens is his debut novel.

"Raul Palma's novel, A Haunting in Hialeah Gardens, offers us hilarity and heartbreak in equal measure. With lush prose and an unerring eye, Palma chronicles the substrata of Miami—the human costs of immigration, poverty, debt, discrimination, and, yes, ghosts—beneath the city's breezy, tropical surface. A pitch-perfect debut." —Cristina García, author of Dreaming in Cuban and the forthcoming Vanishing Maps

“In this Faustian hell of a debut, the prose ripples with a mythical rhythm. Raul Palma has taken a splash of Oscar Hijuelos’ musical cadence, a dash of Alejo Carpentier’s magic realism, and along with his own considerable power to depict Miami lore, its humanism, its African rituals, its mysterious legends, its strong coffee—the end result is this suspenseful, stylistic, and sensory classic.”—Ernesto Quiñonez, author of Bodega Dreams

“Raul Palma’s A Haunting in Hialeah Gardens is the Florida novel of our moment. In a Miami filled with ghosts, curses, and personal loss, a Bolivian American babaláwo and his debt collector negotiate their immigrant histories and identities in relation to one another. Channeling Junot Díaz, Helena María Viramontes, and even Nathanial Hawthorne, Palma playfully limns gothic and supernatural literary traditions in order to offer a serious critique of a post-racial and post-ethnic American Dream.”—Kristiana Kahakauwila, author of This is Paradise

“The modern thriller, fantasy, magic, horror and the literary immigrant novel overlap in this at turns darkly funny, at turns  heartbreaking and always disruptive debut from Raul Palma. In the ways that Walter Mosley maps and curates Los Angeles and its underbelly, Palma maps Miami -  bringing the same intimacy and nuance to his cartography of place and character. Through elegant prose we follow Hugo Contreras on an epic quest for self and to resolve duty and love and redemption.”—Chris Abani, The Secret History of Las Vegas and The Virgin of Flames

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