Patricia Engel

Author of
  • It's Not Love, It's Just Paris
    Grove/Atlantic (08/13)
  • Vida
    Grove/Atlantic (09/10)
  • Veins of the Ocean
    Grove/Atlantic (05/16)

Patricia Engel is the author of the acclaimed books, Vida, It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris and Veins of the Ocean. Her books have been translated into several languages and her short fiction has appeared in The Atlantic, A Public Space, Boston Review, Guernica, and Harvard Review, among many other publications and anthologies.

Born to Colombian parents and raised in New Jersey, Patricia earned her undergraduate degree at New York University and her MFA at Florida International University. She has received awards including the Boston Review Fiction Prize, fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Key West Literary Seminar, Norman Mailer Writer’s Colony, Hedgebrook, Ucross, and the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. Most recently, she is the recipient of a 2014 fellowship in literature from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Miami.

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Books by Patricia

It's Not Love, It's Just Paris

Patricia Engel’s collection of stories, VIDA, quickly established her as one of our country’s best young writers, winning praise from Junot Díaz, Uzodinma Iweala, Francisco Goldman, and others. Her first novel is a vibrant and wistful narrative about an American girl abroad in Paris, who navigates the intoxicating and treacherous complexities of independence, friendship, and romance.

Lita del Cielo, the daughter of two Colombian orphans who arrived in America with nothing and made a fortune with their Latin food empire, has been granted one year to pursue her studies in Paris before returning to work in the family business. She moves into a gently crumbling Left Bank mansion known as “The House of Stars,” where a spirited but bedridden Countess Séraphine rents out rooms to young women visiting Paris to work, study, and, unofficially, to find love.

Cautious and guarded, Lita keeps a cool distance from the other girls, who seem at once boldly adult and impulsively naïve, who both intimidate and fascinate her. Then Lita meets Cato, and the contours of her world shift. Charming, enigmatic, and weak with illness, Cato is the son of a notorious right-wing politician. As Cato and Lita retreat to their own world, they soon find it difficult to keep the outside world from closing in on theirs. Ultimately Lita must decide whether to stay in France with Cato or return home to fulfill her immigrant family’s dreams for her future.

It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris is a spellbinding love story, a portrait of a Paris caught between old world grandeur and the international greenblood elite, and an exploration of one woman’s journey to distinguish honesty from artifice and lay claim to her own life.

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Fresh, accomplished, and fearless, VIDA is the distinct and daring debut by award-winning writer Patricia Engel.

In “Lucho,” Sabina’s family—already “foreigners in a town of blancos”—is shunned by the community when a relative commits an unspeakable act of violence, but she is in turn befriended by the town bad boy who has a secret of his own; in “Desaliento” Sabina surrounds herself with other young drifters who spend their time looking for love and then fleeing from it—until reality catches up with one of them; and in “Vida,” the urgency of Sabina’s self-imposed exile in Miami fades when she meets an enigmatic Colombian woman with a tragic past.

Patricia Engel maps landscapes both actual (New Jersey, New York, Miami, Bogota) and interior in this stunning debut, and the constant throughout is Sabina—serious, witty, alternately cautious and reckless, open to transformation yet skeptical of its lasting power. Infused by a hard-won, edgy wisdom, Vida introduces a sensational new literary voice.

Praise for Vida

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Veins of the Ocean

The extraordinary new novel from award-winning author, Patricia Engel, The Veins of the Ocean is a heartrending story of one woman’s devotion to her death row-convicted brother and her journey away from a painful past.

Reina Castillo is the alluring young woman whose beloved brother is serving a death sentence for a crime that shocked the community, throwing a baby off a bridge–a crime for which Reina secretly blames herself. With her brother’s death, though devastated and in mourning, Reina is finally released from her prison vigil. Seeking anonymity, she moves to a sleepy town in the Florida Keys where she meets Nesto Cadena, a recently exiled Cuban awaiting with hope the arrival of the children he left behind in Havana. Through Nesto’s love of the sea and capacity for faith, Reina comes to understand her own connections to the life-giving and destructive forces of the ocean that surrounds her as well as its role in her family’s troubled history, and in their companionship, begins to find freedom from the burden of guilt she carries for her brother’s crime.

Set in the vibrant coastal and Caribbean communities of Miami, the Florida Keys, Havana, Cuba, and Cartagena, Colombia, with The Veins of the Ocean Patricia Engel delivers a profound and riveting Pan-American story of fractured lives finding solace and redemption in the beauty and power of the natural world, and in one another.

Praise for Veins of the Ocean

“Gloriously gifted and alarmingly intelligent, Patricia Engel ... will leave you breathless.”

Junot Diaz

“Engel has an eye for detail. She knows how to drown the reader in a sense of enchantment... She writes exquisite moments.”

Roxane Gay, The Nation

“It’s hard to conceive of a reader who wouldn’t find pleasure in Ms. Engel’s humor and intelligence.”

The Economist

"The Veins of the Ocean is an indelible novel of loss, grief, and redemption. Patricia Engel has created a world that is at once sensuous and dangerous, authentic and poetic, harrowing and hopeful."

Laila Lalami

"In a novel that is vitally relevant today when the word refugee has such loaded connotations, Engel delivers a pulsating . . . and deeply introspective take on how family, love, and guilt can both 'chain us together' and set us free."

Booklist, starred review

"Engel is able to find a lightness in a disturbing story to carry the reader through the novel. But this effervescent, breezy voice does jar, at times, with dark subject matter. Still, Engel has crafted a detailed, rich world of vivid atmosphere and imagery . . . A dark comedy with unexpected heart."

Kirkus Reviews

"The reader can see the different shades of blue of the ocean, the greens of palms and sea grapes, the smells of the semi-tropics. But Engel’s compassion for her people, the poverty-stricken Hispanic immigrants and refugees who’ve jumped from the fire of their native countries into the frying pan of the United States, is boundless... The Veins of the Ocean reminds us of the importance of love, respect, family and forgiveness."

Arlene McKanic, BookPage

"The book is a great pleasure to read, even while it’s breaking your heart. Ultimately, though, “The Veins of the Ocean” is not interested in leaving the reader in the depth of the characters’ pain, but rather carries us through the pain and beyond it."

Carolina de Robertis, SF Gate

"Reina's own voyage toward freedom is never smooth sailing, but Engel makes it a worthy trip, filled with fascinating characters and beautiful prose."

Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times
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