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Deal Me A Card

431 pages6 hours


1989 in small-town Southern California, tragedy and violence threaten San Benitez and La Coloma. Neighbors must unite to bring peace back to their community. In their midst, Emma Hazelton wants to undertand her life experiences with men, and Guillermo Guerrero wants Emma's love. Against this backdrop, characters play the hands they're dealt enduring the tumult within them and around them as they pursue their dreams and goals.
On her therapist's couch Emma, single, over forty, and disillusioned, grapples with another commitment and searches for enduring love. As her soul-searching continues throughout the story, Emma's confidence and belief in a lasting relationship gradually revitalize. The love between her and Guillermo deepens. Guillermo, an immigrant from Mexico, has risen from harvesting the fields of Fresno to a position as community leader. A widower with two sons, Guillermo directs an educational center where Emma instructs immigrant students.
At the same time, Emma is embroiled in the life of this Southern California barrio. Beyond the couch, people and events call for her attention and compassionate involvement. At work and in her daily life Emma moves among these individuals who, while on their own unique journeys, have experienced life's difficulties. Sofie Perez and other refugees from war-torn Central America and Mexico labor diligently to settle in their new land. Sofie is training to be a chef at the local community college. Playing cards helps her to come to terms with inner turmoil and horrific memories. Her fellow student, Alfredo,is one-legged, having lost the other in an animal trap when he was crossing over from Mexico. Edward, aka Eduardo,Alfredo's cousin and the third member of the trio, is the bad boy of the novel. At the start, he and Emma are a couple. But that quickly ends. Other characters, like Chef Randy, dancers Damon and Joshua, sultry schemer Isadora from Cuba, enhance the scene. Teenagers Martin, Brenda, Araceli and Esmerelda must make decisions about their futures as they grapple with tragedy and obstacles. All players grow close and stretch relationships, facing the challenges of their environment.
Gang-related problems riddle San Benitez and La Coloma. Though the neighborhoods are often a vibrant place where people can bond and laugh as they strive to achieve their hopes,the undercurrents of fear and sadness are ever-present. Guiillermo's son, Daniel, returning from a soul-wrenching episode in China, finds a dead body in his father's backyard. Students at Guillermo's educational center need reassurance when their neighborhood erupts from the biggest drug bust in US history. A mother keeps vigil beside her eleven-year old son crippled in a drive-by shooting. Brenda lives fearful and broken-hearted, knowing her boyfriend's killer. Martin and Esmerelda must balance school and parenthood. Brother Keith, Father MacGregor and Brother Arnulfo provide spiritual solace and practical advice to wounded souls.
Then, because of a misunderstanding caused by Isadora, Emma decides to leave Guillermo and abandon the community. Days before her departure, a jarring crash to the pavement induces a coma. Her family and her devoted lover keep vigil as she slowly recuperates.
On the night after Emma's accident, Araceli's classmate, Israel Velasquez, the son of a local activist who is Guillermo's friend, is gunned down when he unwittingly drives into gang territory. This tragedy further devastates the community.
In the midst of lingering confusion, helplessness and grief, Araceli, Brenda and Esmerelda offer plans for a future that will unite the residents in peace and reconciliation. Their spirit of hope is contagious, far-reaching, and begins to take effect rapidly.
Through all this tumult and change, Emma and Guillermo's relationship regains new life and they start to plan a future together.
They rejoice until another burst of violence ends their dreams.

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