In the heady days before a New Year’s Eve party on the bustling sands of Brazil’s Copacabana Beach, a family reckons with a matriarch’s long-awaited return, causing old secrets to come to light in this infectiously vibrant debut that explores the heartbreak and hope of what it means to be from two homes, two peoples, and two worlds.
Daniel Cunha has a lot on his mind.
He got dumped by his pregnant girlfriend, his grandfather just dropped dead, and on the anniversary of the raid that doomed his drug-dealing aunt and uncle, his mother makes her unwanted return, years after she fled to marry another American fool like his father.
Misfortune, however, is a Cunha family affair, and no generation is spared. Not Daniel’s grandfather João—poor João—born to a prostitute and forced to raise his siblings while still a child himself. Not João’s wife, Marta, branded as a bruxa, reviled by her mother, and dragged from her Ilha paradise by her scheming daughter, Maria. And certainly not Maria, so envious of her younger sister’s beauty and benevolence that she took her vicious revenge and fled to the States, abandoning her children: Daniel and Lucia, both tainted now by their half-Americanness and their mother’s greedy absence.
There’s poison in the Cunha blood. They are a family cursed, condemned to the pain of deprivation, betrayal, violence, and, worst of all, love. But now Maria has returned to grieve her father and finally make peace with Daniel and Lucia, or so she says. As New Year’s Eve nears, the Cunha family hurtles toward an irrevocable breaking point: a fire, a knife, and a death on the sands of Copacabana Beach.
Amid the cacophony of Rio’s tumult—rampant poverty, political unrest, the ever-present threat of violence—a fierce chorus of voices rises above the din to ask whether we can ever truly repair the damage we do to those we love.