MARIA ELENA SANDOVICI
Genre: Historical Fiction / Ghosts
Publisher: Independently Published
Date of Publication: March 26, 2020
Number of Pages: 252
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Galveston Island, Texas, September 2008 Katie doesn’t believe in ghosts. And she certainly doesn’t believe the rumors that her family’s home is haunted, despite its tragic history: two young women who lived there in different eras died in hurricanes—one during Hurricane Carla in 1961, one during the Great Storm of 1900, the greatest natural disaster to befall the United States. But that was the past, a fact Katie reminds herself of when she returns to Galveston to await Hurricane Ike with her parents and boyfriend in her family’s Broadway mansion, hoping to rekindle her flailing relationship.
While Katie is not afraid of the ghost stories she’s heard, she is afraid of the monster storm approaching. As even die-hard Islanders evacuate, her fears grow—fear of the looming hurricane, fear that she’s talentless as a painter, fear that her relationship with her boyfriend is already over. As Katie struggles against her fears, the past whispers to her of the women who died there and the haunting similarities they share with Katie’s own life.
Through three different timelines, Storms of Malhado weaves a story of Galveston’s past, underscoring its danger and isolation, as well as its remarkable resilience, and its capacity for both nostalgia and reinvention. Full of contradictions, at once insular and open to the world, Galveston Island is as much a character of the novel as Katie, Suzanne, Betty, their lovers, and their confidantes.
PRAISE FOR STORMS OF MALHADO:
“Taking place entirely on a beautifully moody Galveston Island, Ms. Sandovici weaves three simultaneous stories with ease. With a timeless tale, ethereal language, and complicated characters, readers will be entranced by this modern ghost story. How many times can the past repeat itself? How do we recognize people through generations? The author tackles this topic amid a backdrop of violent nature and intangible dreamscapes.”
—Courtney Brandt, author of The Queen of England: Coronation, Grand Tour, Ascension
”Three women, three great storms, and one house, haunted by forbidden love and frustrated ambition. Get ready to be swept away by Sandovici’s foray into Galveston Island’s tempestuous history in this tale of lives intertwined across time.”
—Donna Dechen Birdwell, author of Not Knowing
Excerpt from Storms of Malhado
By Maria Elena Sandovici
“Galveston 1961 – Are You Happy, Miss Betty?”
Betty went back upstairs, actually went all the way up to the third floor, where the servants’ quarters had been back when the house was inhabited by a wealthy family, and sat at her drawing table. The table was a wooden rectangle with uneven legs that required balancing with matchbooks. It wouldn’t have been remarkable in any way, except for its sturdiness, a quality at odds with its wobbly nature, a paradox Betty found endearing, as if this large and unwieldy furniture item, undoubtedly left up here by former inhabitants because it was too much trouble to move, were a hippopotamus with a limp, or a massive heifer with a vertigo problem. Betty loved the discoloration of the surface, the circles of wood underneath the worn veneer, the warmth and porousness of it. This table, to her, was like a friend, and the third floor where it resided, her place of refuge. She was grateful for this old abandoned object, a feeling that eluded her about most other things in life, including the privilege of living in the house itself. She supposed that one good thing about Galveston was that nobody wanted to be here. They could afford a mansion if they wanted to, although it was a mansion in disrepair, and sometimes Betty wondered if newer houses with better insulation and fewer ghosts were not indeed more expensive than this ancient carcass Carl had surprised her with.
Her mother thought it strange that Betty liked to go to the third floor. Her mother thought that must be the most haunted part, she’d heard it somewhere, and that a sensible girl would steer clear. But for all the talk going around, Betty had not so much as been startled by an unaccounted-for draft of air. She’d been in other houses on the island where she could feel a presence. But not here. And she was sensitive – as observant of currents of air or unaccounted for energy as she was of light and shadow, of particles of dust floating in rays of light, shiny like snowflakes, or of the subtle changes in color as the Island sky churned the golden hour into the blush of dusk.
Perhaps an actual supernatural presence would have been easier to bear than a vast mansion that was haunted in a different, metaphorical way. For it wasn’t actual ghosts that bothered Betty here, but the thought of the imposing old home as a symbol of days gone by. It was its testimony of an era of affluence wiped out unexpectedly, the Island’s perpetual nostalgia for its own wealth and glory, lost in the violence of the Storm of 1900. With its grand entrance, tall ceilings, dramatic staircase seconded by humble back stairs meant to lead servants seamlessly from the kitchen to the third floor where their rooms were, the house served as a constant reminder that Galveston’s past would forever outshine its precarious present and uncertain future. Betty wasn’t sure it was healthy to live with this much nostalgia. And yet, her domain was the abandoned third floor, the now redundant servants’ quarters, where at the old wooden table which at some point must have been used for more practical tasks she sat for hours and stared at blank sheets of paper.
Carl didn’t bother to come up to the third floor, and Betty had made sure Edna understood that this part of the house was to be excluded even from the more thorough cleanings. Edna had seemed disappointed. Or perhaps Betty had misread her expression. It didn’t matter, anyhow. She’d rather have dust bunnies pile up in the corners of the room, than suffer even a benevolent intrusion. Solitude was the greatest luxury. She could leave her sketches lying around. She could leave books open, photographs scattered, still lives in place. Nobody would bother her workshop. Betty loved having a place that was entirely her own. Yet she knew that there was something amiss with her desire for isolation. For one, it meant the absence of criticism. It was a weakness that she craved this so. It reminded her that she had dropped out of art school, dropped out during her first semester, and not just because she couldn’t make ends meet. Like the old house, she was a creature whose most ambitious hopes lay buried somewhere in the past.