Bernardo and the Virgin
Bernardo stands head and shoulders above other books about Nicaragua for sheer originality, real-life texture, and ingenious use of voices and characters. This historical novel tells the true story of the Virgin Mary’s appearances to a campesino in Cuapa, while portraying a thick slice of Nicaragua’s past and present. If you only have time to read one book before your trip, this may be the one.
Moon Handbooks Nicaragua
Do you believe in miracles? I mean miracles of the religious variety. Never mind—it’s not a prerequisite for reading this book, Bernardo and the Virgin by Silvio Sirias, but if you have a tendency to believe, particularly if you happen to be Catholic, this story may send a holy shiver down your spine... (Sirias) turns out to be a great storyteller with a knack for creating characters.
Bookslut — Online Review of Books
What Sirias had before him was the challenge to accurately describe the events in Cuapa while still being true to the transcendent quality of Bernardo’s experience. He does so to great effect... This is a sweeping novel. It tells numerous delightful and emotional stories involving other appealing characters in Bernardo's world... The details of Bernardo's Nicaragua are wholly entertaining and enticing, with images of Catholic mysticism juxtaposed against the particulars of life in the dusty village of Cuapa. Sirias' prose is lovely.
San Antonio Express News
(Sirias's) novel succeeds... By demonstrating the magic in everyday rural Nicaragua, this tale of religious mysticism is elevated from the unattainable buried headline —"villagers see image of Virgin Mary"— to a story of faith, politics, love, and loss, which we all can understand.
Rain Taxi — Review of Books
(W)hat we come away with in the end is an understanding of Nicaraguans during the latter part of the twentieth century: their sufferings and longings, their losses and hopes, their mysticism and bawdiness, their idealism and resignation. The author writes that he hopes to “give readers some insight into what it has meant to be a Nicaraguan during such tumultuous times.” In this entertaining and moving novel, he has done so splendidly.
...(A) gem... The beauty of Bernardo and the Virgin is Sirias’ seriousness in his approach to the subject matter. He takes the apparitions and surrounding tales—including miracles reported—at face value. And he imbues these tales with the faith and love one would expect from a visionary without degenerating into pietistic platitudes... God works in mysterious ways. Bernardo, in real life or in fiction, is testament to that.
A thoroughly engaging read.... Silvio Sirias has done an expert job at engaging his reader, maintaining her interest with his wondrous storytelling and motivating her curiosity to seek out more. One can almost mystically experience the real being of Bernardo Martínez through Sirias’ words.
The Austin Times
In the book, Bernardo and the Virgin, Silvio Sirias tells Bernardo Martinez’s story in a unique and refreshing way... The story is not only about Bernardo, but explores the faith and passion of the Nicaraguan people themselves—from their entertaining superstitions and rituals, their passion for la Virgencita and the Catholic faith, their desire for a better life and the romantic yet unfulfilled notions of the Sandinista Revolution and what it would bring to a people too long silenced and repressed by a cruel dictatorship. Bernardo and the Virgin is ultimately about goodness—goodness that in the end will triumph over evil. Bravo Silvio!
Midwest Book Review
Bernardo and the Virgin is a gargantuan book, full of beauty and wonder, by a newcomer I think will garner lots of attention. Of course, the comparisons will fly between Mr. Sirias and some of his fellow Latin American writers like García Márquez, Alejo Carpentier, Alvaro Mutis, Jorge Amado—all great company, I say, if one is to keep such company, though this book is not fitting so quickly into the magical realism school. There’s much more at work here, including a mysticism that is reminiscent of Paulo Coelho and Rudolfo Anaya... I think Bernardo and the Virgin will join the ranks of other memorable books written by folks like Francisco Goldman, Jaime Manrique, Mayra Montero, and others who are getting noticed... This book has a strong literary backbone, but it is highly entertaining as well. It is an adventure of the first order, a journey that will appeal to a wide range of reader.
About Bernardo and the Virgin
In addition to telling an incredible story, Bernardo offers the kinds of detail I wanted back in 1997, before I set foot in Central America, when I found only war memoirs. The reader devours each perfectly-placed Nicaraguanismo, cultural tick, and Chontaleño landscape, all amid the smell of woodsmoke and coffee, and under the watchful eye of doña Tula, the town gossip.
The Tranquilo Traveler
Every once in a while, I pick up a piece of historical fiction and it turns out to be a good piece that I wish never ended. This is one such book.
Memoirs of a Linguist
In Bernardo and the Virgin, author Silvio Sirias not only writes the story of the appearance of the Blessed Virgin to Bernardo Martinez in the town of Cuapa, Nicaragua in May of 1980, but also touches on many fascinating, yet tragic events in the history of this Central American country. From the devastating earthquake of 1972, to the assassination of Dr. Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, to the early days of the Revolution, readers will be instantly drawn in to this wonderfully written novel.
Pisti Totol ~ Black Bird
Just as in Meet Me Under the Ceiba, Sirias has given us another beautifully written novel revealing the intricacies of Central America. Bernardo and the Virgin is a great reminder of why I love historical fiction.
Brown Girl Speaks
I really cannot recommend this novel enough; it’s beautiful, well-written and a delight to read.
Regular Rumination: Books and More Books
Bernardo and the Virgin is well-written and moving. Silvio Sirias has gifted readers with a deep exploration of humanity as well as spirituality, presenting book clubs with much to discuss as they peruse this novel.
The Book Nook
What Sirias has on his side, in addition to a true gift for writing, is the ability to weave people and stories, and make this tale appealing. Sirias offers a vivid, rich image of the politics, mysticism, culture, and everyday life in rural Nicaragua.
If you are an expat or considering immigration to a Central American country I would recommend reading Bernardo and the Virgin. Whether you accept the religious message is not relevant. The cultural immersion which is integral in the story will help you better understand the people of Central America, many of whom are tied into the mysteries of the Catholic Church.
The Boquete Guide
This is an entrancing story that provides a marvelous window into Nicaraguan life, and one I’d highly recommend! I only hope Sirias has another novel in the works.
A Striped Armchair
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