Captain of the Sleepers A Novel

Mayra Montero; Translated by Edith Grossman




Trade Paperback

192 Pages



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For fifty years, Andrés Yasin has carried a grudge against J. T. Bunker. Now, Bunker, eighty-two years old and dying of cancer, wants to tell his side of a story, a story of his affair with Andrés's mother. As a child Andrés knew Bunker as the "Captain of the Sleepers"—so called because he transported the bodies of those who had died off the island, but wished to be buried at home. But what really happened between Bunker and Andrés's mother, between his mother and her next lover, a leader in the Puerto Rican Nationalistic Insurrection, and what were the actual circumstances of Andrés's mother's mysterious death?
In this taut, erotic novel that slips effortlessly between past and present, remembrance and reality, Mayra Montero describes a feverish Caribbean childhood of secrets, disillusionment, and sexual awakening.


Praise for Captain of the Sleepers

"In her new novel, Captain of the Sleepers, Mayra Montero probes those depths of inner ruin with a gelid calm and lucid exactitude that belies her character's tortured passions and the story's tropical settings—Puerto Rico, St. Croix and, most important, Vieques, the island to the side of P.R. in which the past, as Faulkner so wearily told us (and Montero appropriately quotes), isn't even past . . . A worthy peer of the likes of Mario Vargas Llosa."—San Francisco Chronicle
"The novel—the seventh by Cuban-born author Mayra Montero—is too engrossing to put down . . . She achieves a rare thing: crystallizing the bitter history of the relations among the United States, mainland Puerto Rico and Vieques without resorting to polemics."—The Nation
"Captain of the Sleepers is an evocative, haunting story, as fatalistic, moody and inevitable as a Greek tragedy."—January Magazine
"A captivating tale of love, politics, and death . . . a complex and suspenseful novel."—The Charlotte Observer
"One of the most exciting and interesting writers of the Americas, North and South."—Julia Alvarez
"[Montero] has never written better than in this increasingly suspenseful tale of divided loyalties and lingering resentment and sorrow. She's one of Latin America's finest writers, and this is her best novel yet."—Kirkus Reviews
"Montero charts the chilling undercurrents of steamy Caribbean life in novels notable for their lyrical intensity and mystery, eroticism and social acumen. . . . A haunting tale of a small place overrun by a superpower and a small family shattered by big dreams of liberation and love, and the mythic alignment of sex and death."—Booklist
"Montero, Cuban by birth but now residing in Puerto Rico, is the author of seven remarkably distinct novels (e.g., Deep Purple), five of which have been translated into English . . . In this one, where she writes in the voice of an adult male seeking to recapture his childhood, she entices us into her subversive Caribbean world."—Jack Shreve, Library Journal
"Montero artfully choreographs the confluence of family, romantic and revolutionary ardor."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Excerpted from Captain of the Sleepers by Mayra Montero. Copyright © 2002 by Mayra Montero. Translation copyright © 2005 by Edith Grossman. Published in September 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.

I'M in the last place on earth I'd like to be. Waiting for the last person in this life I thought I'd ever see again. It's almost six. I'm sipping beer at the bar of the Pink Fancy, a hotel on St. Croix where I arrived just a few minutes ago, carrying a small week end bag.
When I arrived I was registered by a woman who didn't stop laughing. She was young
Read the full excerpt


  • Mayra Montero; Translated by Edith Grossman

  • Mayra Montero is the author of a collection of short stories and of several novels, including The Messenger, The Last Night I Spent with You, and Dancing to "Almendra." She was born in Cuba and lives in Puerto Rico, where she writes a weekly column in El Nuevo Día newspaper.  
    Edith Grossman, winner of the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation, is the translator of many works by major Spanish-language authors, including Gabriel García Márquez, Álvaro Mutis, Mario Vargas Llosa, Julián Ríos and Miguel de Cervantes. She lives in New York.
  • Mayra Montero Ingrid Torres