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Todos Santos

Publication Date: August 2010


Catherine Barnes is an unlikely adventurer. An artist and children’s book illustrator, she is content with her life as mother to 14-year-old Isaac and wife to Elliot, a professor at a university in Iowa. But when she discovers that Elliot’s been doing more than teaching his students, and Isaac nearly flunks out of 8th grade, Catherine finds herself at a crossroads. And so begins author Deborah Clearman’s debut novel, Todos Santos.

Unsure of what to do with her marriage and where to turn for help with her rebellious son, she travels to Guatemala-Isaac in tow-to spend the summer at the invitation of her fiery sister-in-law, Zelda. Shortly after arriving, Catherine leaves Isaac in Zelda’s care and hires a guide to take her to the remote village of Todos Santos, or “All Saints” in order to find inspiration for her next book. It’s a village bound by legends of the ancient, vengeful gods of the mountains and fears of black magic, as present today as they were when the village was established thousands of years ago.

As Catherine gets closer to her guide, Oswaldo, and becomes acquainted with the ways of Todos Santos, she learns of a more recent history that plagues the town: the Civil War or Violencia. Still fresh in the villagers’ memories, this violence seems to fuel the newest threat-rumors of foreign baby-snatchers and devil- worshippers on the way to the village.

When Isaac is kidnapped, his fate is thrown into Catherine’s hands. Panicked and desperate for help as the tension in the town grows, Catherine is forced to face her obstacles alone. Todos Santos takes readers to a place where the possibility of self-discovery and love are wrapped in unexpected danger.


“In her novel, Todos Santos, Deborah Clearman has given us a rare and knowing look into a world few Americans know or will ever experience-those parts of Guatemala that extend beyond the picturesque postcard images visited by most tourists to that strange and mysterious and heartbreaking country. She tells the story of an American woman who ventures well beyond the safe territory she inhabited in the past, to rebuild her life in a remote mountain village, and to fall in love. With a perceptive eye for detail and knowledge of the human heart, Deborah Clearman introduces us to characters who are both utterly unlike any we have encountered on the page before, and utterly believable.”

-Joyce Maynard

An exotic, timely-and timeless-tale of love, fear, sex, death and renewal. Clearman paints a vivid picture of the gritty and graceful sights of Guatemala as well as of the human heart.”

-Holly McArthur

Deborah Clearman is a born storyteller, and Todos Santos is an expertly conceived tale. In it, a marriage- weary American wife and her adventurous young son lose their way in present day Guatemala. Clearman’s feel for the vivid weave of folklore and history in this exotic world made her story come alive for me, but its real terrain is the familiar, surprising human heart.”

-Lesley Dormen

About the Author

© Marion Ettlinger

Deborah Clearman

Deborah Clearman’s short stories have appeared in The Adirondack Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, Connecticut Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Hamilton Stone Review, storySouth, and many other journals, and have been a Glimmer Train award finalist. She wrote and illustrated The Goose’s Tale (Whispering Coyote Press) for children. Her paintings and prints have been widely exhibited in galleries and museums. She leads creative writing workshops for women in jail on Rikers Island for NY Writers Coalition and she serves on the PEN Prison Writing Committee. She lives in New York City and Guatemala.

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