VIDA by Patricia Engel

I saw this review in The New York Times Book Review for Vida, by Patricia Engel. It is a collection of stories about the daughter of Columbian immigrants in New Jerey "to whom nothing truly horrible or truly wonderful happens". From Amazon:

Vida Engel navigates issues of class, ethnicity, and identity with finesse in her debut collection, linked stories about Sabina, a child of Colombian immigrants who grows up in New Jersey before heading off to find work and love in Miami. "Diego was this guy that I met on Washington Avenue at three in the morning the summer I quit my job at the art gallery," the 23-year-old Sabina says in her typically understated voice in "Desaliento," a story about how dallying with the handsome Argentinean hustler seems glamorous and subversive. In "Lucho," Sabina, still in high school where her family is considered "spics, in a town of blancos," a neighbor boy with a rough past is the only one who pays attention to her. In the title story, Sabina, working in Miami, befriends an illegal Colombian immigrant who reveals a tale of being sold to a Miami brothel owner and later being "rescued" by the brothel's guard, now her boyfriend. Engel's prose is refreshingly devoid of pomp and puts a hard focus on the stiff compromises Sabina and her family have had to accept; there's a striking perspective to these stories.

The Roving Editor was a huge fan of Vida:

[Vida] is a highly satisfying hybrid of novel and short story collection that is particularly successful in portraying a multi-dimensional central character.

Patricia has a way with arresting opening lines, and a seemingly effortless, conversational style of narration that is brilliantly sustained. This creates a rare sense of immediacy and intimacy that is the mark of a gifted storyteller.

There are many other glowing reviews online – might need to pick this one up!