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10,000 SOULS    


by Annette Sandoval    

Approximately 85,000 words    



10,000 SOULS follows four friends' journey through a modern labyrinth of family, friendship, and food. These four women lean on each other for support as they navigate the uncharted waters of their futures. They come of age when hair is big, fashion is loud, and everyone wants their MTV.  




After her father dies in a freak accident when she is seventeen, grief-stricken Roxy Zamora is forced to grow up and run the family restaurant. On her eighteenth birthday, she makes a wish for a partner to shoulder the burden of the business alongside her. When a blown out candle on the cake 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. Roxy will forget to honor her part of the deal.  

Roxy receives sudden attention from Jaime Nazario, the new produce man. He’s got the boyish good looks of a Tiger Beat magazine heartthrob, and the bad boy appeal of James Dean. After a brief courtship and a lavish wedding, Roxy stays home to have babies, while Jaime 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 Jaime’s car and gets it developed. She gets back photos of 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 masculine pride and vengeance, Jaime decides to kidnap their sons and make "la torta" pay. Unaware of Jaime’s demented plans, Roxy misses her husband. She sends a second desperate prayer to Santa Muerte for Jaime to come home and never cheat on her again.  


As Roxy makes the sign of the cross, Jaime’s motorcycle is struck by an oncoming truck. He survives the accident but is left paralyzed from the neck down. When Jaime 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.  



While 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 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 tumultuous 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. Jacob, however, is 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 her cookbook, COCINA: A CULINARY EXPERIENCE OF MEXICAN FOOD. 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. Her girlfriend, Carolyn, a fellow artist, passes away and bequeaths to the bereaved Dulce her tattoo: 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, stretched, and placed in an airtight glass frame. Dulce is moved to tears when she is presented with this powerful and intimate gesture of love. Dulce takes Carolyn’s tattoo to her next exhibit at the Galería de la Raza. When a reporter asks about the piece, entitled Carolyn, Dulce says, "People aren’t just good subjects in art; they also make good materials for art." The reporter writes a scathing review, comparing the skinned tattoo to Hitler’s lampshade made from the skin of a Holocaust prisoner.  

There’s nothing like a little controversy to attract a lot of attention. After Carolyn’s "debut," Dulce begins to receive 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 resulting exhibition, explores the human condition by highlighting the art and stories of the tattoo portraits, along with photos, letters, and mementos from the deceased contributors. In the gallery, her beloved Carolyn is displayed in the place of honor. Taped onto the frame is a strip of photo booth pictures of Carolyn and Dulce mugging for the camera.  




Julia 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 a pre-med student, she and her boyfriend, Atticus Berger, fly back east to meet his family. Julia can tell that Atticus’s mother is a little disappointed when they meet. It soon becomes clear that Mrs. Berger, a Washington lobbyist, wants to use Julia to help her gain racial prestige. Julia’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, Julia learns that a rash of home burglaries have been taking place in their exclusive community. Several maids have been fired for stealing; two of them have been deported. Able to navigate between the housewives and the hired help, Julia does some sleuthing on her own. When she discovers that the thief is part of Mrs. Berger’s inner sanctum, Julia becomes the most hated person in the capital city—politicians excepted.  




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, 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   


" plot twists, interspersed with delightful culinary details that make the recipes almost characters in themselves." —American Library Association