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Award-winning Puerto Rican author Theresa Varela was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Dr. Varela holds a PhD in Nursing Research and Theory Development and currently works with the mentally ill homeless population in New York City. She is a member of Las Comadres Para las Americas and is on the Advisory Board of the Latina 50 Plus program. She is co-founder of La Pluma y La Tinta, a writers' workshop. Her blog, Latina Libations on Writing and All Things of the Spirit, can be found on her website.

Dr. Varela is also a spiritualist and an initiated priestess of Yemaya in the Orisha tradition. She has managed to weave these aspects into her writing where her characters usually thrive in Brooklyn, delve into spiritual realms and the Orisha tradition, and grapple with the grim realities of urban life. She is also the creator of a 56-card oracle deck for seasoned and novice readers, Graciella la Gitana Oracle/Oráculo de Graciella la Gitana which offers spiritual direction on a path of compassion and love.

Coney Island Siren by Theresa Varela

Call it coincidence or call it fate when Maggie Fuentes, rummaging through a Coney Island flea market, stumbles upon a handwritten diary whose author, a young girl of the nineteenth century named Ellen, reveals dreadful secrets that parallel Maggie's own.

In her daily life at the hospital, where she works as a nurse, Maggie is faced with two women who are unable to voice their desires for life—Amy Landry, a young woman who, in an attempt at suicide, becomes reliant on Maggie for life, and, in return, Maggie realizes her dependency on Amy's living and surviving; and Sonya Harris, the victim of a carjacking who had no choice in her quest for life. Dulce, Maggie's best friend, pleads upon deaf ears while Maggie sinks deep into the sinister maelstrom of her lover, Police Officer Frank Ramirez, until the stark urgency of lines written by Ellen, a kindred spirit, compel Maggie to confront reality. Far removed from each other in time but bonded by the white-capped ocean, amusement park locale, and converging torments, it seems particularly apt that the sleight-of-hand landscape of luck and chance provides the setting for Maggie's harrowing and hypnotic encounter with turmoil, then kismet, and, ultimately, clarity and reawakening.

CURATOR'S NOTE

Sometimes evil is not what lurks in the shadows but can be in your own home and in your bed. Domestic abuse is a crime and a horror. From the first page, Theresa grabs you with this story tackling a very dark subject, yet she does it masterfully in a way only a woman could write it from this perspective. It is a story about women and survival. Although this is not straight forward horror or noir, and can't be placed in an exact genre, I feel this is one of its strengths. Big thank you to Richie Narvaez for the recommendation. – V.Castro

 

REVIEWS

  • "Varela's portrayal of Maggie's ordeal is a tour de force in its depiction of a battered woman struggling to recover her mind and soul."

    – Kirkus Reviews
  • "With painstaking care, Dr. Varela carries you on oceanic waves of love, loss, hurt. The reality of Maggie's world that is so carefully chipped away by her "boyfriend" who dominates her life and leaves you feeling the claustrophobic emotions that literally trap Maggie in this world of no escape."

    – Maria Aponte, Author Transitions of a Nuyorican Cinderella
  • "With elements of magical realism, readers of Coney Island Siren will latch on to Maggie, empathize with her, and think about the real-life Maggies in the world."

    – Anita Martin, Postcards & Authors
  • "… a novel lives and dies on the creation of real, riveting characters out of which a plot evolves. And that's what the author achieves in Coney Island Siren. Maggie Fuentes is as memorable as they come. She jumps off the page and into your life and you keep thinking about her even when you're not reading…Even as you become entranced by her, you want to look away because you feel somehow complicit just for her being so typically human, so fallible."

    – Venantius
 

BOOK PREVIEW

Excerpt

Transitions

There's an old saying that "death comes in threes." When one person dies, people usually walk around in shock. Bereft family members and friends shake their heads, mutter about the unfairness of death, and float slowly along until the tide of acceptance engulfs their grief. And then a short time later, there comes news of another death. Heads shake again but this time in a knowing fashion. The smell of destiny permeates the air. Grief inexplicably turns to expectation of the death of a third. There is sometimes a certain smugness noted in comments when the third passing occurs. The inevitable "I told you," or "my mother always used to say . . ." are phrases heard, usually in whispers. The fearful may stall their own untimely demises if these words are unheard by sources more powerful than themselves. Foretelling a thing so dark brings satisfaction. There is power to the philosophy that one can't change fate, or so it is told.

There is also a belief that a prophecy foretold can be transformed. A chance stroll down a different street, a decision to climb the stairs instead of riding the elevator, or the avoidance of walking beneath a building blanketed with scaffolding can each make a critical difference in a projected outcome. Today I sit at the oceanfront and watch the waves undulate, crash, and disappear. A breeze, the ripple of a small fish, or the tiny feet of a child running to and fro on the sand may alter the destiny of the wave. My life tells me that all is an illusion. Our destinies are created by our beliefs and our actions manifest our futures.

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