Vintage Contemporaries

Song of the Water Saints

A Novel

Publisher: Vintage
This vibrant, provocative début novel explores the dreams and struggles of three generations of Dominican women. Graciela, born on the outskirts of Santo Domingo at the turn of the century, is a headstrong adventuress who comes of age during the U.S. occupation. Too poor to travel beyond her imagination, she is frustrated by the monotony of her life, which erodes her love affairs and her relationship with Mercedes, her daughter. Mercedes, abandoned by Graciela at thirteen, turns to religion for solace and, after managing to keep a shop alive during the Trujillo dictatorship, emigrates to New York with her husband and granddaughter, Leila. Leila inherits her great-grandmother Graciela’s passion-driven recklessness. But, caught as she is between cultures, her freedom arrives with its own set of obligations and dangers.


Invasions - 1916


Graciela and Silvio stood hand in hand on El Malecón, sea breeze polishing their faces. Silvio hurled stones out to the waves and Graciela bunched up her skirt to search for more pebbles. Her knees were ashy and she wore her spongy hair in four...
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"Nelly Rosario's debut novel stands out . . . for its joyously profane wit and plainspoken, unforced poetry."--San Francisco Chronicle

“[A] transporting tale . . . vigorous, evocative prose...” –The Miami Herald

“Written in spare, penetrating language...exuberantly paced, sexy...” –The Village Voice

"Like Julia Alvarez's [first] novel, Song of the Water Saints explores what families pass down, and what they toss aside." –The Denver Post

"Rosario's writing is lively and rich with emotion throughout .... it is impossible not to be moved."—The Washington Post Book World

“An electrifying debut. Powerfully written, meticulously imagined, and arresting to its core, Nelly Rosario’s novel is a flame for the mind and heart, the sort you are endlessly grateful for.” –Junot Díaz, author of Drown

“Effortlessly intermingles three generations of women, dropping unadorned dialogue amid spare and lovely prose.” –Entertainment Weekly

“Rosario does an excellent job conjuring the colorful, vibrant scenes of Caribbean life.” –Los Angeles Times

“Every small scene that Nelly Rosario writes reaches toward a larger truth out in the world, and also a smaller, more intimate truth. . . . There is a physicality in the language that speaks of an angry, human spirituality and the struggle to be alive.” –The Oregonian

“Lush and assured . . . each brief chapter reads like a snapshot of a soul.” –Time Out New York

“Like a Caribbean Scheherazade, Rosario casts a spell on her readers with this saga of three generations of Dominican women whose yearning becomes our own. What they want and what we get reading Song of the Water Saints is a sense of luminous world, complex and layered, full of passion and adventure.” –Julia Alvarez, author of In the Time of the Butterflies

“Rosario’s dialogue deftly approximates the rhythm of Dominican Spanish. . . . The effect are, by turns, bawdy and hilarious, a kind of verbal jousting.” –Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A gorgeous first novel, epic and poetic.” –Edwidge Danticat, author of Breath, Eyes, Memory

“Poetic without being flowery and overstated . . . raw realism and strong character portrayal.” –Mosaic

“A richly textured novel, in which gleaming, perfectly sketched images are vividly juxtaposed with gritty reality.” –Dominican Times