NeMLA Reads Together

"NeMLA Reads Together" promotes a novel written by our invited keynote speaker for all our attendees to read during the year preceding our convention.

Julia Alvarez, The Cemetery of Untold Stories

Julia Alvarez ©Todd Balfour for Middlebury College

NeMLA's 56th Annual Convention will feature Julia Alvarez's newest novel, The Cemetery of Untold Stories (2024).

“Only an alchemist as wise and sure as Alvarez could swirl the elements of folklore and the flavor of magical realism around her modern prose and make it all sing... lively, joyous, full of modern details and old tall tales… often witty, occasionally somber and elegiac.”
— Luis Alberto Urrea, The New York Times Book Review

Land of Love and Drowning.

Hachette describes the book as follows:

Alma Cruz, the celebrated writer at the heart of The Cemetery of Untold Stories, doesn’t want to end up like her friend, a novelist who fought so long and hard to finish a book that it threatened her sanity. So when Alma inherits a small plot of land in the Dominican Republic, her homeland, she has the beautiful idea of turning it into a place to bury her untold stories—literally. She creates a graveyard for the manuscript drafts and the characters whose lives she tried and failed to bring to life and who still haunt her.

Alma wants her characters to rest in peace. But they have other ideas and soon begin to defy their author: they talk back to her and talk to one another behind her back, rewriting and revising themselves. Filomena, a local woman hired as the groundskeeper, becomes a sympathetic listener to the secret tales unspooled by Alma's characters. Among them, Bienvenida, dictator Rafael Trujillo's abandoned wife who was erased from the official history, and Manuel Cruz, a doctor who fought in the Dominican underground and escaped to the United States.

The Cemetery of Untold Stories asks: Whose stories get to be told, and whose buried? Finally, Alma finds the meaning she and her characters yearn for in the everlasting vitality of stories. Julia Alvarez reminds us that the stories of our lives are never truly finished, even at the end.

Hachette has published a book club reading guide for The Cemetery of Untold Stories.