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3.62  ·  Rating Details  ·  454 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
Fresh, accomplished, and fearless, Vida marks the debut of Patricia Engel, a young author of immense talent and promise. Vida follows a single narrator, Sabina, as she navigates her shifting identity as a daughter of the Colombian diaspora and struggles to find her place within and beyond the net of her strong, protective, but embattled family.

In “Lucho,” Sabina’s family—a
Paperback, 182 pages
Published September 7th 2010 by Grove Press, Black Cat (first published 2010)
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New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2010
75th out of 100 books — 654 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,212)
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Madeline Knight-Dixon
Jul 24, 2012 Madeline Knight-Dixon rated it it was amazing
I finished this book in one day, not because I had to for class, but because I couldn’t stop reading it. There is something so powerful about this girl. She’s snarky, she’s depressed, she’s desperate, she’s faithful, she’s impressionable. She’s every girl that’s ever lived. She makes terrible choices and deals with them the way most people do- she makes the same choice again.

Someone in my class said it was “depressing”. I call it human. I call it the voice of a generation that’s lost and at the
Dec 05, 2010 tina added it
I was pretty hopeful when i picked this up, but the reviews are overly generous. i find little that can be called edgy in this collection/narrative. many bad things happen to people surrounding sabina, but not to her diretly. and there's no recognition of this, and so these events feel like a construct. engel skims the surface here, which can be slightly interesting but ultimately leaves me disappointed. to talk about one's sexual wanderings, openly admit disgust and lack of empathy for her sick ...more
Jul 01, 2011 Tommy rated it it was amazing
I loved this book!!! Big thanks to the woman working in Malaprops - another wonderful book store - in Asheville NC who had just finished it and gave it to us as we were checking out, saying we had to read it. Later I kept seeing it in different best books of the year lists yet still didn't get around to reading it despite its relatively short length.

Now having finished it, all I can say is WOW, why did I wait so long! It's definitely one of the best I've read or will read this year! It reminds m
Jul 03, 2013 Shayna rated it really liked it
An amazingly powerful book, easy to read because of Engel's terrific, gripping prose. While I didn't want it to end, the brevity is spot-on. This isn't so much a novel as a series of short stories about the same character. I can see the comparisons to Diaz, and his presence in her writing is unmistakable, but to call her a copycat or a rip-off is narrow-sighted and dismissive. Sabina is no Yunior. Engel's writing, while fresh and snappy like Diaz's and Latin@-American focused, sort of stops with ...more
This year is the first time I've really given short stories a chance. While this isn't my favorite collection, the author, Patricia Engel, writes beautifully. Sabina, who is the protagonist for all of the stories, is a real girl. She doesn't bulls**t, which is probably what I liked most about her. As someone else commented these stories are all example of how things work out in this life. Overall a great purchase and read.

Favorites from the book:

Livin' la  Vida Latina
Feb 04, 2015 Livin' la Vida Latina rated it really liked it
Reviewed by: Sandra

Livin la vida Latina

Review: Patricia Engel’s debut book was wonderful. Her main character, Sabina, was smart, witty, and real; she often referred to herself as a “late bloomer.”

These are stories of a girl’s coming-of-age from childhood to adulthood (although not necessarily in that order) that trek through the hurdles revolving her family, friends, neighbors, and her ethnic identity.

Living in a community shunned by “blancos” makes life a little lonely for Sabina in “Lucho.”
Meagan Kashty
Jan 19, 2012 Meagan Kashty rated it it was amazing
An entertaining book based around coming of age and cultural identity. While technically a series of short stories, the book focuses on one girl, Sabina, and the number of people who shape her as she grows up. The fact that these stories are not told chronologically, and that the style of writing changes through each chapter, only works to add more charm to the book and gives depth to the character of the girl.
Sep 28, 2011 Shabnam rated it really liked it
My biggest complaint about this book: too quick of a read!

Otherwise, I truly enjoyed reading the interrelated short stories about our heroine, written fluidly and seamlessly. I loved the layout that had the character all over the map (literally and figuratively), and I was certainly affected reading the powerful stories that snagged my emotional commitment to them right from the start.
Mar 12, 2012 Laura rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I can't remember the last time I read such an honest, unpretentious coming of age story. I really identified with the narrator and found so much of this book relatable to my immigrant upbringing. I can't wait to read more of Ms. Engel's work.
Jan 21, 2016 Deb rated it really liked it
Since my words are not nearly as eloquent as these, I'll quote from a review on the back of the book, "Her ability to pierce the hearts of her crazy-ass characters, to fracture a moment into its elementary particles of yearning, cruelty, love and confusion will leave you breathless."


I have only read a few books that would be characterized as not short stories, but rather, vignettes-snapshots into very specific moments in the character's life. And I love the genre. Love it. Not all life st
Dec 25, 2015 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Decidedly exceptional. Sabina is so real it almost hurts to read her life in this way- as much is revealed in the stories told as in those left out. Comparisons to Junot Diaz are inevitable p, but Engel's perspective is as uniquely feminine as his is masculine. Definitely picking up one of her novels.
Apr 18, 2014 phaedosia rated it it was amazing
Recommended to phaedosia by: Flavorwire
Really great book on the topic of the Colombian immigrant experience. You can't help but wonder what would happen if you made a different choice when you came to that fork in the road. This book thinks about that "shadow" life--those "what-would-have-beens" if you'd made other choices.

There are so many "what ifs?" in this book. What if they'd stayed in Colombia? What if she had snuck out with Lucho that night? What if she hadn't trusted her hairstylist to get her on the pageant circuit? What if
Jul 02, 2011 Jen rated it really liked it
At a friend's recommendation I got a copy of Vida from my local library. I finished half of these in a 45 minute sitting and the rest in brief stints over the next 2 days. I was quite impressed with her style and the approach of having a novel of short stories featuring the same character at different points in her young life. It seemed to go in chronological order and then it didn't. The character seemed to sort of have it together and then she didn't. (But then she did.) (But then she didn't.) ...more
S.W. Gordon
Jan 04, 2016 S.W. Gordon rated it liked it
I am just beginning to delve into the short story genre and I have much to learn. Is a short story simply a book that starts near the end? Must the stories in the collection have certain similarities or a unifying theme? Does one judge the parts or the whole? My wife loved these stories but I felt left out---like I missed something. I was impressed with the writing and the merging of cultures. It did give me something other than boxing to discuss with my Panamanian friend. He did appreciate Sabi ...more
Oct 07, 2010 Reid rated it it was ok
Patricia Engel is a talented writer, but she doesn't do much with it in this book. I know it is the reigning style to write this sort of book, with interconnected short stories substituting for a traditional plot, and I am also aware that the consequent emotional distancing is intentional. But unless one is David Mitchell, the result can be, and is in this book, a rather spare, empty experience. Engel focuses on the most shallow aspects of human experience, and one must wonder if she herself has ...more
Pattie Nauheimer Ekman
Jul 03, 2015 Pattie Nauheimer Ekman rated it really liked it
Fast-paced collection of connected short stories. Even though the time and place jumped around, it was not difficult to follow due to the author's excellent characterization and narrative style. I've never read this author, but will look for more by her in the future.
Dec 05, 2011 Pants rated it really liked it
I really liked Engel’s voice. I wouldn’t call it edgy, because “edgy” is the word you use when someone tries too hard. I’d call it straightforward. Casual but personal. I know she and Junot Díaz are friends, and I know their work occupies a similar space, but I haven’t read enough by Díaz to call Engel’s work a cheap imitation. I’ve seen others make that criticism, but the only judgment I can make—for now—is that Diaz has a stronger point of view. He’s also funnier.

But Vida surprised me in ways
Feb 06, 2015 Noah rated it liked it
Personal narratives wielded with scathingly understated humor and insight into the forces, social or circumstance, that drive a young Columbian-American woman's growth. Fun as hell to read.
May 04, 2011 Alexis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Alexis by: Julissa
A novel written as a set of inter-linked short stories, all about Sabina, a girl born of Colombian parents in the US. This one sucked me right in. The first few chapters/stories especially were enthralling. At some point, though, I found the stories confusing because of the shifts in time and perspective...some are told in first person, some in third. I also kept hoping that the series of dysfunctional relationships would lead to something more satisfying, but felt like Sabina and other characte ...more
Michelle (tinyturtle88)
I give this book 3.5 stars. This book's first sentence was, "It was the year my Uncle got arrested for killing his wife, and our family was the subject of all the town gossip." I'm in! This was a quick gritty, but refreshing read that had such an authenticity about it. This book covered Latinos from Colombia, Panama, Puerto Rico etc. The only part if this book that was underwhelming was the way the author jumped from story to story in different tenses. She was 14 then she was 20, then she was su ...more
Jul 23, 2011 Siobhan rated it liked it
Really enjoyed the diversity of characters and settings in this series of short stories. The author has a good understanding with the difficulties of being a migrant and the divided passions between their cultures. I really enjoyed some of her observations amongst family members and friends and might get back with some good lines she used in the stories! The discussion section at the end has some excellent questions that would be great for any discussion on many topics covered in this book. I be ...more
Jun 17, 2011 Mariah rated it really liked it
I read this very quickly and enjoyed it. It was narrated by a young Latina woman and each chapter was a short story in itself about an interesting person or episode in her life. The language was written the way she would tell the story out loud and I enjoyed the realness that brought to each chapter. At the end I found myself wanting to know more about the pieces between chapters/stories and how things ended up with various characters she told us about, but that seemed to be the feeling Engel wa ...more
A thread of melancholy runs through these loosely connected stories, each one revolving around a young Colombian-American woman named Sabina. The American daughter of immigrant parents, she feels equally adrift among the middle class New Jersey gringos and the down and out Colombian emigres in Miami. The complicated mess of life and its sordid underbelly are portrayed with a brutual lack of sentimentality. Engel captures the uncertainty of youth, the simultaneous desire to and fear of falling in ...more
Oct 29, 2010 Schuyler rated it liked it
Vida is a hard nut to crack. Engel is clearly influenced by Junot Diaz, whom she gives a shout out to in her acknowledgments and Diaz also blurbs the front cover. That's pretty much why I read it, because this is the debut Diaz had been waiting for, apparently. But this influence comes off as more imitation than her own solid voice but then again, it is a debut and Engel is still finding that voice.

Moderately recommended though nothing new in terms of moving Latin American immigrant fiction forw
Amanda Hernandez
Jan 09, 2016 Amanda Hernandez rated it it was amazing
Great book. Would read definitely read it again someday.
Jan 07, 2011 Betsy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: one and all, esp. girlfriends...
I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its author's photo and bio but I couldn't resist with this book of short stories. Seems very autobiographical - and that's fine. The novelist and main character (Sabina) seem one and the same - a New Jersey-born beauty of Colombian descent who lives in NYC and then Miami. The stories are about the people she hangs out with as a kid and young adult and the adventures, problems, that ensue. If you like Junot Diaz, you'll like this (He blurbs the book.) ...more
Oct 14, 2014 Cristina rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult, latino
Excellent writing.
James (JD) Dittes
Engel has such a strong sense of her central character--a girl out of place in so many ways. She lives in New Jersey, Manhattan, Miami, and she's based in Colombia. She loves so many different men. She has at least three different jobs/careers over the course of the many stories. And yet her insights are consistently spot-on.

Read this collection for laser-sharp insights into an array of new personalities. It's a great way to spend a few afternoons of your summer.
Dec 09, 2015 Larissa rated it it was ok
Shelves: latinx
For once, the description of the book outdid the book itself. I'm so tired of unlikeable, edgy, forever-distraught Latina characters - it presents such a one-sided narrative, such a flat opinion of what life in the borderlands is like. I really resonate with what Tina said in the comments below - "Is it courageous to reveal one's selfishness?" Maybe it's how I feel about selfishness as a trait itself, but in my opinion the answer is no.
Apr 24, 2013 Heather marked it as to-read
At first, I loved the style. Direct,vulnerable,detailed,and imaginable. About halfway through, the love fell to like. The details felt unnecessary, the plots felt unbelievable, and the directness turned into confusion. The book is split into seemingly interconnected chapters, but felt more like a series of short stories than a unified whole. Kinda weird, but I still gave it a three because I did like the first half of the book. :)
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Patricia Engel is the author of the acclaimed books, Vida and It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris. Her new novel, The Veins of the Ocean, is forthcoming from Grove Press in May 2016 and has been noted as one of the Most Anticipated Books of 2016 by Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post. Vida, her debut, was a New York Times Notable Book of 2010, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Fiction Award, New York Publi ...more
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“Asks me what I do for a living, and I think, I’m only twenty-two. I don’t do anything for a living except smoke cigarettes and throw my heart around.” 0 likes
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