Julia & Rodrigo
Winner of the Gival Press Novel Award - 2012.
Honorable Mention - London Book Festival for General Fiction - 2013.
Finalist for ForeWord Reviews' Book of the Year Award for Multicultural-Adult Fiction.
Honorable Mention - San Francisco Book Festival for General Fiction - 2014.
Finalist for the Ohioana Book Award for Fiction - 2014.
Julia & Rodrigo is a Romeo-and-Juliet story set in Guatemala against the backdrop of the country’s civil war.
The novel centers on Julia García and Rodrigo Rax, two young people from the small, mountainous town of Santa Cruz, Verapaz, who fall in love. Julia is Evangelical and Rodrigo Catholic, and their different religions, as well as their different races (Julia is ladina, Rodrigo half Maya Indian) and social classes (Julia’s family is intact and financially stable, Rodrigo’s is fatherless and poor), complicate their relationship. The novel features strong secondary characters, including an idealistic African-American Catholic named Alejandra and a Mephistopheles-like foil named Pedro Mendez. Rodrigo is an exceptional soccer player, and he signs with a professional team. Because a soccer career is likely to make Rodrigo wealthy, Julia’s father consents to his daughter marrying him. But after Rodrigo is badly injured, Julia’s father withdraws his permission. Rodrigo and Julia make plans to marry anyway.
A month before they can elope, however, Rodrigo is impressed into the army, where long stretches of boredom are broken by disturbing encounters with guerrillas and violent interrogations of Maya-Indian villagers. Meanwhile, Julia goes off to college, where she becomes engaged to a classmate. She doesn’t forget Rodrigo, however. Indeed, she feels his presence everywhere. Although she plans for a future with Oscar, her fiancé, she wonders if her engagement is all a charade she is putting on until Rodrigo’s return.
"In Julia & Rodrigo Mark Brazaitis takes Romeo and Juliet and wonders what becomes of impossible love when the lovers cannot simply die. Rendered in swift, elegant prose, his tale of a poor football star and the wealthy girl who loves him turns most painful after the forced parting. Anyone who has loved and lost will recognize the wounds of these doomed, gentle characters. What's most tragic, Brazaitis knows, is that in Julia's and Rodrigo's great love—like the bloody Guatemala Civil War that surrounds it—none can win, and all of it is so unnecessary." —Tony D'Souza, author of Whiteman, The Konkans, and Mule
"This expressive, touching and at times wrenching novel tells the stories of two young people living in Guatemala during that country’s civil war. Teenagers Julia Garcia and Rodrigo Rax meet at a school pageant and find that they are drawn to each other. Julia, the daughter of an engineer, lives in one of the few two-story houses in town. Rodrigo, who comes from less privilege, is a soccer star. But what begins as a love story soon becomes a struggle against circumstance. Julia and Rodrigo rise above old-fashioned customs of marriage and religious worship only to collide with events they cannot control. Ultimately, this finely crafted novel goes a long way toward answering the question of whether human free will can overcome fate, or God’s will." —Thaddeus Rutkowski, final judge of the contest and author of Haywire, Tetched and Roughhouse
"What a stunning novel! Julia & Rodrigo is ambitious, deeply felt, exquisitely written, masterfully structured, and informed by a wide-ranging knowledge of the culture and politics of Guatemala. Astonishingly, if one didn’t know the gender and nationality of the author, a reader could never guess that it was written by a North American male—Mark Brazaitis, so inhabits his two characters and the milieu in which they come of age. In many ways as tragic as Romeo and Juliet, his novel follows its own poignant, yet unsentimental story line to an inevitable, sorrowful, and yet hope-filled end. I read this novel in one sitting late into the night; I could not put it down. Note: An instructive book for readers of all ages and a perfect accompaniment to high school and university courses on Latin America, as well as a compelling book club choice." —Marnie Mueller, author of Green Fires, The Climate of the Country, and My Mother's Island
Mark Brazaitis is the author of five books of fiction, including The Incurables: Stories, winner of the 2012 Richard Sullivan Prize, from the University of Notre Dame Press. He is also the author of a book of poems, The Other Language, winner of the 2008 ABZ Poetry Prize. A former Peace Corps Volunteer and technical trainer, he currently teaches English and is the former director of the Creative Writing Program at West Virginia University.