You found me! Yeah!
by Annette Sandoval
Approximately 90,000 words
Set in the early 1980s in San Francisco’s Mission District, 10,000 SOULS weaves through the lives of two sisters, their family restaurant, and circle of friends. They come of age when hair is big, fashion is loud, and everyone wants their MTV. These four women lean on each other for support as they navigate the uncharted waters of their futures.
Grief stricken Roxy Zamora is forced to grow up and run the family restaurant after her father’s fatal freak accident when she was seventeen. On her eighteenth birthday, she wishes for a partner to shoulder the burden of the business alongside her. When a candle flickers back to life, Roxy panics. Although a devout Catholic, she sends a secret prayer to Santa Muerte. The Mexican folk saint of death is said to grant wishes with fast results in return for pledges or offerings. She will forget to honor her part of the deal.
Roxy receives sudden attention from Santos Nazario, the new produce man. He’s got the boyish good looks of a Tiger Beat magazine heartthrob, and the dark and brooding appeal of Heathcliff. After a brief courtship and a lavish wedding, Roxy stays home to have babies, while Santos runs the restaurant. Caught up in the narrowly focused world of raising three sons born in quick succession, she forgets the importance of being part of her own business.
Roxy finds a roll of film in Santos’s car and gets it developed. She sees thirty-six naked women (actually, thirty-five and a thumb), all wearing nothing, but the white satin heels Roxy wore on her wedding day! Shocked and devastated, Roxy kicks the serial adulterer out and files for divorce. Fueled by machismo and vengeance, Santos decides to kidnap their sons and make "la torta" pay. Unaware of Santos’s demented plans, Roxy misses her husband. She sends a second desperate prayer to Santa Muerte for Santos to come home and never cheat on her again.
As Roxy makes the sign of the cross, Santos’s motorcycle is struck by an oncoming truck. He survives the accident but is left paralyzed from the neck down. When Santos is released from the hospital and into Roxy’s lifelong care, it dawns on her that her prayers have been answered.
Not one to make the same mistake twice, Roxy erects a shrine in her closet. She pays tribute to the Holy Saint of Death with flowers, food, People Magazines, candy, coins, and the occasional shot glass of Pepsi Cola.
Where Roxy’s biggest fear is to end up alone, her younger sister Leah, yearns for solitude. Roxy thrives in the restaurant's front rooms; Leah prefers to be tucked away in the kitchen. Food is honest, nurturing, and reliable in ways that people rarely are.
On the overcrowded streets of San Francisco, Leah tries to go unnoticed, but aggressive strangers always zero in on her. Panhandlers yell obscenities and religious zealots follow her for blocks. Nearly being gang-raped in Golden Gate Park by transients is the tipping point.
Fearful for Leah’s mental health, Roxy needs to get her sister out of the city. She enrolls Leah into the Culinary Institute of California in the Napa Valley, fulfilling a lifelong dream of Leah’s they cannot really afford. For the first time in her turbulent life, Leah thrives. When her instructor, Chef Jacob Lasson, finds out that she was a cook at one of his favorite San Francisco restaurants, he reserves a kitchen for a tutorial on Mexican cooking. She explains traditional techniques to the chef along with the origin of each dish. They fall in love. Trapped in a loveless marriage, Leah agrees to become Jacob’s mistress.
Jacob encourages Leah to write down her recipes and cooking lore. By graduation, she has a firm offer for COCINA. Leah is faced with a decision: return to the mercurial city or remain in the lonely affair with Jacob. Choosing neither, she sets off for the bucolic Mendocino coast to live life in delicious solitude.
Dulce Racelis is an artist and has been friends with Roxy and Leah since they were kids. When her girlfriend and fellow artist, Carolyn, passes away, she bequeaths her tattoo to a bereaved Dulce: an octopus that covered the skin of Carolyn’s entire backside and scalp, with tentacles extending to the palms of her hands and the soles of her feet.
Carolyn had made the arrangements to have her tattooed skin preserved and placed in an airtight glass frame. Dulce is moved to tears when she is presented with this powerful gesture of love. She takes Carolyn’s tattoo to her next exhibit at the Galería de la Raza. When asked about the piece entitled, “Carolyn,” Dulce turns her smart brown eyes to the reporter and says, “People aren’t just good subjects in art; they make good materials for art.” The reporter writes a scathing review comparing the skinned tattoo to Hitler’s lampshade made from a holocaust prisoner.
There’s nothing like a little controversy to attract a lot of attention. After Carolyn’s “debut,” Dulce receives letters from people from all walks of life: prisoners, businessmen, bikers, housewives, war veterans, and a Holocaust survivor—all of whom want her to take their tattoos—posthumously.
Dulce humbly accepts. Skin Deep, the exhibition by Dulce Racelis explores the human condition by highlighting the art and stories of the tattoo portraits. Photos, letters, and mementos from the deceased contributors, their loved ones, and the victims’ families are displayed alongside of the tattoos. In the gallery, her beloved “Carolyn” takes the place of honor. Taped onto the frame is a strip of photo booth pictures of Carolyn and Dulce mugging for the camera.
Tessa Anaya is the fourth in this tight circle of friends. She cannot wait to go to Stanford and leave the medieval machismo of her barrio behind. During her junior year as pre-med, she and her boyfriend, Atticus Berger, fly back east to meet his family. When introduced to Atticus’s mother, Tessa can see that she’s disappointed. It soon becomes clear that Mrs. Berger, a Washington lobbyist, wants to use Tessa to help her gain racial prestige. Tessa’s fair skin and hazel eyes had thrown her off, but she could work with that.
While having lunch with Mrs. Berger and her friends, Tessa learns of the rash of home burglaries taking place in their exclusive community. Several maids have been fired for stealing, two of whom were deported. Able to navigate between the housewives and the hired help, Tessa does some sleuthing on her own. When she discovers that the thief is part of Mrs. Berger’s inner sanctum, Tessa becomes the most hated person in the capital city—politicians aside.
Where is China? Against her parents' wishes, Christina “China” Nieves moves to New York to try to get into film school. Her parents are ashamed that she chose to move practically as far away from them as she could without a passport. Mr. Nieves implies to a nosy neighbor that she is missing. The tragic news spreads through the barrio like a cold through a preschool. Mr. Nieves is pressured to report his daughter's disappearance to the police by a house filled with worried relatives.
The media soon picks up on the story, and the couple become reluctantly captivated by the attention. Invited to be guests on “Good Morning America,” they get a little carried away and become the founders of a national Hispanic support group for parents of missing children. For someone we never meet, China leaves a profound impression on the novel. Cogent observations about familism, honor, respect, religion, and traditional gender roles within a Mexican American community are achieved through this non-character.
Early blurbs are in:
“...some of the most interesting, well-drawn characters in contemporary Chicana literature. I’m sure it will garner many awards. It shines.” —Rudolfo Anaya, author of Bless Me, Ultima
“The yarn Sandoval spins of their lives would make an HBO show-runner proud...”—Compulsive Reader
“...rich plot twists, interspersed with delightful culinary details that make the recipes almost characters in themselves.” —American Library Association