Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Veins of the Ocean” as Want to Read:
The Veins of the Ocean
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Veins of the Ocean

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  1,470 ratings  ·  266 reviews
“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

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
Hardcover, 406 pages
Published May 3rd 2016 by Grove Press
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Veins of the Ocean, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,470 ratings  ·  266 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Veins of the Ocean
Jan 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: south-america, cuba
A man dangles a baby over a pier on the ocean because a lover has slighted him. This sets the tone for this novel.

This is about family. A history of murder and suicide. A history of poverty and broken relationships. A story of a sister loyal to the memory of a brother. The burden of family, of truths and sins.

There is beauty in the writing of this sad and disturbing tale. Beauty in finding the release of forgiveness and the power of healing. Engel has the power to transport a reader into the lo
Angela M
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
You will find wonderfully descriptive language here, sentences of simple words full of complex meaning . I could see the ocean colors , feel it's depth and understand the sense of freedom it has for the characters and the dolphin released from captivity. The author covers a lot of ground here with a variety of themes - of families, immigration, guilt, freedom to live symbolized by the ocean ,freedom from the past, and of course love .

Raina, born in Columbia and raised in Miami visits her brother
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
“It’s a sea of death,” Universo said. “But the water remembers what civilization tries to forget.”

The ocean is the third main character in this novel, besides our protagonist, Reina, a young woman struggling to let go of the guilt that haunts her sleeps, and Nesto, a man who comes into her life with his own past that he struggles to reconcile with his present. Between them are oceans, both physical and metaphorical, that they cross and re-cross, sometimes with each other and sometimes on jou
Elyse  Walters
Feb 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The first thing I noticed about Patricia Engel, at the Bay Area Book Festival was how gorgeous she is. She is not only elegant, with a healthy glow... Her energy is contagious. She's funny....and everyone in her packed filled room was having a good time.

The blurb gives enough details about the basic I won't repeat what's been said.
I enjoyed this story. There is an air of magic and tragedy. Engel paints us beautiful and complex portraits of the main characters....conveying mood, and e
May 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An outstanding novel about family and obligation and the choice of suffering. Couldn't put it down. ...more
Jan 08, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
2 ½ stars. The Veins of the Ocean is one of those books that has all the ingredients of books I usually like, but somehow didn’t quite work for me. I never felt particularly engaged and reading it felt like a bit of a chore. The story focuses on Reina, whose family immigrated from Columbia to Florida. She comes from a family full of nasty baggage, including her brother Carlito who was sentenced to death row for a pretty ugly crime. The first third of the book focuses on Reina’s relationship with ...more
The Veins of the Ocean is a contemplative look at grief, shame, loss, destiny, and hope through the eyes of Reina, a young Latina in south Florida. Traumatic events have shaped Reina's life from her earliest days, and when her beloved brother, Carlos "Carlito" commits a shockingly similar crime to the one their father did years earlier, Reina is tested in loyalty and love. She knows he is guilty, but devotes every weekend of her teen and early adult years to visiting Carlito, who now is on Death ...more
“Listen to the water, Reina,” she whispered as I let myself be cushioned by the soft rush of waves. “If you trust the tide, it will always return you to shore.”

In The Veins of the Ocean we follow Reina, a young latina, who wants to leave the past behind and start anew in the Florida Keys.
“I want to be forgotten. I want it to feel as if I’ve never existed. I want to be a stranger. Rootless.”

The last few years she had offered up her life for her brother on death row, and after his executio
Anna Luce

“I want to be forgotten. I want it to feel as if I've never existed. I want to be a stranger. Rootless.”

A few days before reading The Veins of the Ocean I read, and enjoyed reading, Patricia Engel's Vida, a collection of short stories centred on a Colombian-American woman. I was intrigued by the premise of The Veins of the Ocean and the first chapters were deeply affecting. I was captivated by the understated lyricism of Engel's prose, by Reina's interiority and the reflections she makes by re
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it

This book was amazing to read! I'm so happy I took a chance on this. Okay, real talk: I really only picked this book because of the cover and the title. Okay, the synopsis really intrigued me too.. but still I was super hesitant about diving into it. I don't know, I'm super weird about books because when I read a bunch of great or intriguing books I somehow find a dud in the mix. Then my groove is ruined.

However, this book was not the case. I loved everything about it! The Veins of the Ocean
Jan 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Some authors are able to make first-person narrators real within just a few pages, and Patricia Engel certainly has that gift. Reina’s voice is perfectly authentic from page one. All her complicated feelings about her family are laid bare: her ambivalence towards her flighty mother, the void of feeling where her absent father would have been, and most of all, her guilt and shame over a horrific crime committed by her brother, Carlito, now in solitary confinement on death row.

Reina’s life in adu
Book Riot Community
In this novel, a young woman named Reina lives with the guilt of a crime her brother committed, which affects many aspects of her life, including her bonds with family and a new relationship. As the book moves forward, Reina pushes her own limits and through a connection with the ocean, is able to see a reflection of herself that keeps her moving forward. This book is centered in the immigrant experience and tackles tough issues like grief, family, fate and love with such grace. I took my time w ...more

3.5 Stars

The Veins of the Ocean weaves together the stories of Reina, her brother Carlito, their father and mother, beginning with one event that will haunt their lives, and followed by a second event that will forever change them, and that will land Carlito in prison.

Reina, devoted to her brother, spends every weekend visiting Carlito, and the remainder of her time working as a manicurist, listening to her clients’ problems. She dreams of fulfilling her promise to Carlito to visit their homela
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars



Stunningly beautiful and completely raw and emotional. I have so many feelings for this book that takes place so close to home but also across a sea, but also deep in the experiences of immigration and community I know, but also mired in the experiences I've only heard of and never knew. It will take me a bit for me to truly gather my thoughts and feelings here, but this will certainly go down as one of the best things I read in 2017.

Full review to follow.
Jessie Seymour
Jun 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Another example of why GR should have half-star ratings. I'd definitely give The Veins of the Ocean 4.5 stars, but alas this isn't possible, and I've decided to round up instead of down because my issues are so minor. Firstly, there were a small handful of chapters that simply lost my interest. Nothing major since the chapters are relatively short, but some of those 7-8 pagers (of course it was always the longer ones) that were just a little dull. I also don't know how to feel about all the span ...more
Apr 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was initially very drawn to this book's title. The veins of an ocean could suggest so many things, depth, volatility, life/death, to name a few. I was immediately engrossed with this story of being figuratively and literally imprisoned by one's past and choices. The depth of Reina's unconditional love for her brother even after he committed the most heinous of crimes, made me perplexed and yet it pulled me in as if I too was being lured into an ocean of guilt, remorse, pain, and vulnerability. ...more
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book has left a hole in my heart.

So good.

It is so sad. The language is so lovely. The sense of place blows my mind. The spirituality is a living, breathing thing (it is so beautiful to read about Santeria in an everyday context and not just associated with fantasy).

I'm not sure I've ever loved an audiobook this much before. I can feel a book hangover coming on.
Nov 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 3-star
The Veins of the Ocean was a very weird book for me. It’s a lot different from the books I usually read. I was under the impression that this was a mystery/thriller type story, but this is actually a very slow novel that would be closer to a character study than anything else.

When Reina’s brother was a baby, her father threw him off a bridge. Her brother was lucky enough to survive unscathed, but events end up repeating themselves as Reina’s brother in turn ends up throwing his girlfriend's baby
Jan 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"When he found out his wife was unfaithful, Hector Castillo told his son to get in the car because they were going fishing." So begins the story of The Veins of the Ocean, with a trip that forever marks the lives of Carlito Castillo and his younger sister Reina, our eyes and ears to the enchanting world that unravels within the book.

Years after the incident that begins the tale, Reina Castillo lives a lonely life, visiting her brother in prison as he serves time for a horrendous crime. After his
Rounding up from 3.5 stars. Patricia Engel has an undeniable talent; she is an elegant writer and develops her grieving, displaced characters in a way that feels natural and realistic. I enjoyed the slow-burn romance between Nestor and Reina and very much enjoyed the spirituality in the book (Nestor tells Reina many stories about the Yoruban orishas, elemental deities who are the forces and fabric of our living world).

But I also do think this book is at least 50 pages longer than it needs to be
Jun 01, 2016 marked it as dnf
Unfortunately I had to DNF this one because it is due back at the library and I couldn't finish it in time. This book is extremely raw and open in a way that made it hard for me to read big chunks at a time (which is not a negative of the book, but just isn't helpful when you have to return a book to a library).

(Also I usually don't remember to mark my DNFs on Goodreads but lots of people were looking for my opinion on this one)
Feb 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Hauntingly sad and steeped in regret and loneliness.

I think of my mother and how, when I was a child, she'd take me into the water with her and I felt time suspended in her embrace. How badly I've wanted to return to those moments. We remained under the same roof, but the years pulled us apart, so we could never recover the softness I felt from her under the sun, amid the waves.

Here, in the open ocean, with nobody to hold me at the surface but myself, I become sad for what's become of my mother
Barbara Tsipouras
An interesting novel about life in exile, guilt, family life, death sentence, Cuba, Caribbean religion as a mix of catholilicism, voodoo, African religion and esoteric beliefs, the ocean and freedom.
Prison can be anywhere.

Patricia Engel describes what it feels like to be an immigrant, the parts about Reina's brother in prison are exceptional.
I can feel the love for the ocean.
Two broken souls find each other and together they are finally able to feel at home.
I like how this new love growns slowl
Wendy Cosin
Jun 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
A novel about immigrants to south Florida from Columbia and Cuba, The Veins of the Ocean delves into family trauma/relationships, guilt, and loss. The author writes about prison, as well as the larger questions about freedom and the prisons that society perpetuates. Descriptions of the ocean and geography, family customs, dreams, and references to Afro-Caribbean spirituality add depth, as does the natural inclusion of Spanish in the dialogue.

I enjoyed the book a lot, especially the sections abo
Aug 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
I was attracted by the title & was rewarded with beautiful imagery of living by the sea & authentic view of the Miami/Keys area. Engel presents a sympathetic look into the complicated problems immigrants face when relocating, in this case from Cuba & Columbia. To fully appreciate Engel's story, it helps if the reader knows a little Spanish.
As an aside, I was not familiar with Carlos Varela, a Cuban musician quoted at the beginning of the book. When I listened to him on YouTube, I fell in love wi
Aug 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is told from the perspective of a young woman born in Cartagena, Columbia who immigrates with her family to Miami when she is very young. Her story is tragic and filled with grief, sorrow, remorse, but not anger. Many of her early life choices are poor, but her role models were dreadful self-centered people. Somehow, through all of this awfulness, she maintains hope. Somehow. It is a fascinating look at the cultures of Miami, Cuba, the Florida Keys, Florida's death row and even commerc ...more
Jun 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Have you read this book? Why haven't you read this book? It is absolutely gorgeous and heartbreaking. It is a story of love, loss, grief, redemption and finding yourself. I loved it - and not just because it is set in places so familiar to me. It may be the best thing I have read this year and I would like to thank Roxane Gay and the good folks at Book Riot for turning me on to this gem of a novel. Read it. ...more
Rachel León
Jun 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
(Maybe 4.5 stars?) This novel is deep and beautiful, sad and poignant. I'm actually interviewing Engel tomorrow for Chicago Review of Books and when the interview gets posted, I'll be sure to include the link here. ...more
Jun 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Another fantastic book from Patricia Engel. What I love about her books, and this one in particular, is that they are so descriptive about the locations they take place in. The details of Miami, the Keys, Cuba, and Cartagena make you want to travel there and see them for yourself.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Riot Reads: The Veins of the Ocean 2 6 Jul 09, 2017 01:05PM  
Reading Women: The Veins of the Ocean 1 20 Apr 20, 2017 09:25PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Fake Accounts
  • The Rib King
  • Shadow Tag
  • Moi les hommes, je les déteste
  • Butterfly (Orphans, #1)
  • Land of Big Numbers
  • Unforgetting: A Memoir of Family, Migration, Gangs, and the Revolution in the Americas
  • One Life
  • White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color
  • Telephone
  • A Crooked Tree
  • La luz difícil
  • Black Buck
  • This Town Sleeps
  • Lo que le falta al tiempo
  • Crystal (Orphans, #2)
  • Raven (Orphans, #4)
  • Brooke (Orphans, #3)
See similar books…
Patricia Engel is the author of Infinite Country, forthcoming in March 2021; The Veins of the Ocean, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize; It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris, winner of the International Latino Book Award; and Vida, a finalist for the Pen/Hemingway and Young Lions Fiction Awards, New York Times Notable Book, and winner of Colombia’s national book award, the Premio Biblioteca de Na ...more

Related Articles

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
37 likes · 10 comments
“It’s a sea of death,” Universo said. “But the water remembers what civilization tries to forget.” 8 likes
“The only way to get what we want from life is to ask for it.” I” 4 likes
More quotes…