It is the hottest hour of the hottest day in Oaxaca City when Life and Death walk into town, ready to begin a new game of Lotería. But first, they need a pawn, a child whose fate will be determined by the winner of the game: a long and prosperous life or an untimely death. Fate finds this child in a robin-egg blue house, tucked beneath a massive jacaranda tree. And so, the game begins.Every card reveals a new twist in Clara’s fate: a tree, a scorpion, a fateful arrow, a mermaid, a deer, a treacherous rose. But Clara knows none of this. All she knows is that her cousin Esteban has vanished, and she’ll do whatever it takes to save him, traveling to the mythical Kingdom of Las Pozas in her search. And although it seems her fate was sealed as soon as the cards were dealt, Clara just might have what it takes to shatter the game and choose a new path.
“La Lotería was a simple game of chance. The first player to get four cards in a straight line—horizontal, vertical, or diagonal—would win. A win by Catrina would deliver Clara into her hands. A win by Life would spare the child, granting Clara a long life.”
“And so it was that the fate of a child tending to a pot of hot chocolate hung on a pile of beans and a deck of cards.”
“The girl has surprised me,” she admitted. “I did not anticipate her courage.” “I don’t think she anticipated it, either,” Life replied. He pulled out the tablas and the cards.
“It is not hard to trick the brokenhearted.”
“Listen,” she told Esteban. “And remember this: we may not have a choice about what happens to us. We didn’t ask for any of this.” She extended her arm, pointing across the lake. “We didn’t choose to end up in this dark and broken place. But there is nothing we can do to change the fact that this is where we are.”
“The thing is, even if we had no choice about what happened to us, we still get to decide what to do about it.” Clara pointed at the butterflies blinking overhead. “I choose not to let the terribleness of this place be the end of my story. Or yours.”