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Sundial: Patricia Engel makes us feel through the lives of her flawed characters

Courtesy of Patricia Engel
Patricia Engel is a New York Times bestselling author based in Miami.

The characters in Patricia Engel’s new book, The Faraway World, are scattered.

They work in factories in New Jersey, where they save for plastic surgery. They run drugs in Miami and try to hold on to their boyfriends.

They drive taxis in Cuba and dream of other lives with other women. They clean Catholic churches in Colombia.

Wherever they are, Engel puts them through the wringer. They lose a sister. They’re hit by cars. They cheat and are cheated on. Sometimes, they even struggle to write.

Many of them are contorting themselves to fit into what Engel has called the "United States of Diasporica."

Ultimately, these characters feel. They confront those feelings. We watch them change.

At their best, Engel's characters feel real enough to make us consider the actual people around us.

Engel's last novel, Infinite Country, was a New York Times Bestseller. This time, she’s giving us a collection of short stories. She’ll be presenting them at Books & Books in Coral Gables Friday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m.

On the Feb. 2 episode of Sundial, Engel joins us to talk about the stories she wrote over the course of a decade.

On Sundial's previous episode, we spoke with scholar and former University of Miami professor Andy Gomez about his new children’s book about the history of Cuba and the diaspora. He wrote it after his oldest grandson asked him, "Abuelo, why did you leave Cuba?"

Listen to Sundial Monday through Thursday on WLRN, 91.3 FM, live at 1 p.m., rebroadcast at 8 p.m. Missed a show? Find every episode of Sundial on your favorite podcast app, such as Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify.

Stay in touch with us via text by joining our Sundial text club. Send us your thoughts, ideas or questions by texting the word “join” to 786-677-0767. You can also email us at sundial@wlrnnews.org.

Carlos Frías is a bilingual writer, a journalist of more than 25 years and the author of an award-winning memoir published by Simon & Schuster.
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.
Elisa Baena is a former associate producer for Sundial.