The Way of the Saints is a multi-generational novel based on Elizabeth’s family and her personal experiences as the daughter of a Santeria priestess. The stories tell of three generations of Puerto Rican women: Paula, Isabel, and Esther as they navigate Puerto Rico’s Independence movement of the 1930’s and the opulence of 1980’s Westchester, New York. Paula and her children move to the brutal and impoverished Lower East Side. There, desperate to have a child and uncover the origins of a family curse, her youngest daughter Isabel begins an unquenchable quest for power and is initiated into the secret African-Cuban religion called Santeria. As she rises in the ranks toward high priestess, her oppressive need for control damages her marriage and her relationship with her only child. Esther, her daughter born of spells and sacrifices, grows up in the 1980’s among the sprawling mansions, the golf clubs, and the yacht clubs of Westchester and City Island. There, Esther’s mother Isabel manipulates the secret practices of magic, leaving Esther juggling between two worlds: ancient island spiritism and yuppy suburban materialism.
“The book is steeped in Puerto Rican history and culture, and Engelman’s vivid prose (‘a clandestine, secrete community, a family that transformed their jewel-box living rooms into festive drum circles’) brings the many descriptions of Santeria rituals to life…. The book does an excellent job of capturing the essence of a community facing challenges from external and internal forces, and it delivers an intimate, emotionally resonant portrait of a complicated family.”
“Three generations of women struggle with the inheritance of trauma in Engelman’s harrowing and yet uplifting tale. The Way of the Saints illustrates how one way to break free of the narratives forced upon us, is to author our own. A compelling debut by a storyteller of great power.”—Jeff Parker, author of Where Bears Roam the Streets
Words and phrases are curses and spells (as we have always known them to be), and you will read this book at your own peril. Its cover is a trap door — soon you will find yourself in times and places so seductive and dark that it will take a sacrifice to ever leave them again. Later, you might find yourself in a park on a sunny afternoon, but an odd, glittery trinket has been left for you in the grass, and you will quicken your step. At a garden party the lights will suddenly dim, and you’ll hear whispers behind your back and know not to turn around. Still, still, you will be in love.Stefan Kiesbye, author of Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone
A sweeping novel about three generations of women and their devotion to one another. The Way of the Saints is restless and abundant, moving back and forth in time and between Puerto Rico and New York, and considering at every turn the devastating allure of power, be it to harm or to heal. Elizabeth Engelman is an unerring storyteller.-Corinna Vallianatos, author of The Before Land
Elizabeth Engelman is a literary spiritist and her enchanting debut novel, The Way of the Saints, is a spell-binding success. Spanning several decades and alternating between Puerto Rico and New York City, the novel examines the tenuous ties that bind a family together. There’s turmoil and sacrifice mixed with political unrest and personal triumph. The novel features more sinners than saints and, in the end, it’s the alchemy of hope and faith that reminds the reader of what makes us most spectacularly human.-Jason Ockert, author of Wasp Box
Publication Date: Fall 2021