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Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers' Favorite
The Fortune Follies by Catori Sarmiento is a dystopian-toned science fiction-infused drama that takes place in an alternate history. The year is 1949. The setting is post-World War II Seattle, a technologically unique, socially unbalanced city laced with violent crime gangs and monopolized by a company whose automatons, among other wonders, are produced by the slave-like labor of non-citizen residents. The drama erupts in the lives of two cousins of Japanese and mixed-race ancestry who have very different goals in life. To sixteen-year-old Penny, nothing but her singing career matters, but at what cost? Eighteen-year-old Sarah is grievously resentful of Penny’s prosperity and flees the drudgery and poverty of Alaska to seek monetary reparations from Penny and a new life of leisure for herself, only to realize very quickly that she jumped from the proverbial frying pan into a horrendous house fire.
In The Fortune Follies, Sarmiento presents a complex drama that engages the reader on many levels. The narrative is descriptive, providing detailed insight into the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes experienced by the protagonists as they move through the plot. The story proceeds at a reasonable pace as it unfolds to reveal layers of emotional, psychological, and cultural dimensions. The chapters alternate in points of view between Sarah and Penny, who interact in some and act separately in others. Flashbacks to their younger years explore the tangle of emotions that connects them. Japanese-inspired folktales add to the cultural flavor of the novel. And, the alternate history angle provides a springboard for the science fiction aspect. A mesmerizing and, at times, gut-wrenching read.