Damnificados is a story of survival, of diversity, of faith, and of the fantastical. We are introduced to the Damnificados (a population of misfits and vagabonds) as they fight a two-headed wolf and its pack to take residence in an abandoned skyscraper. This building was built with corruption and constructed upon a heap of garbage and has been unoccupied since the death of its “mayor.” The group is successful and lead by a reluctant leader, Nacho, and the Damnificados build a thriving and sustainable community within the tower walls.
We learn that Nacho was abandoned as a baby due to two of his limbs not forming completely. He is discovered by Emil’s father, and the family takes him in, even though they doubt Nacho’s survival. With Nacho’s deformity, he did not play like the other kids, but instead listened to his father, a gifted storyteller, teach him about the history of their land. Nacho’s knowledge comes in handy when the tower is threatened by politics and floods. He is a successful leader and is always determined to do right by his people.
The novel is comprised of a collection of fantastical tales revolving around Nacho, his brother Emil, the skyscraper, and the histories of the garbage wars. There are many plots in the novel, so it is difficult to summarize without telling the whole story. But if you read this book, be patient because every thread is connected by the end of the novel.
Damnificados is JJ Amaworo Wilson’s first novel, and he crafts a story filled with fantastical events and magical realism. Wilson can paint a scene with words – reading I had a clear vision of what the tower and it’s colorful inhabitants. While the writing is almost poetic, the lengthy descriptions meant slow plot progress that made the book feel much longer than its page count.
The stories of the Damnificados are heartbreaking to romantic to triumphant. Wilson has created an unforgettable novel, that I recommend if you are looking for a profound, unique book.