Rubén Arenal, nicknamed Rocket by his friends and family, and Ernesto Cisneros are as close as brothers, living in the city of Chihuahua in Mexico’s northern state of Chihuahua. Rubén, a potter, lives alone in his workshop. Ernesto is married to Guadalupe and they have a son, Coyuco, who is training to be a teacher. Out of these bald facts spins magic. Rubén falls in love with an eerily lifelike mannequin in a shop window, widely rumored to be more flesh and bone than mere artifice, and modeled on a local beauty nicknamed La Pascualita, who died young many decades ago. Rubén trails after her ghost while Ernesto leaves their hometown to go in search of his son, kidnapped and disappeared by the police while out on a student protest with his comrades from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College.
“Two friends two friends, how close could they get without being one man… one in love with a ghost, the other… longed for the son who’d more than likely already become a ghost”
Set in the very recent past, Thirteen Heavens is a hypnotizing tale of corrupt politics, brutal violence, and all-too-human drama. For all of its quiet brutality, the narrative is infused with an entrancing, dreamlike mix of Mexican folklore, popular song and poetry. At the novel’s very heart lies the porosity of the boundary between this life and the next. It is a book like no other and, once begun, it is very hard to put down. Once put down, it is very hard to forget.