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Carlos Alvarado
Never To Forget
An adventurous and inspiring story of a courageous woman who struggles against social injustice: as a saboteur during the Costa Rican revolution, and later, as wife to an abusive husband. To protect her children, she immigrates to the US.

Quarter Finalist

Plot/Idea: 10 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 10.00 out of 10


Plot/Idea: Artfully flowing between past and present, the novel is anchored by dates when necessary to help readers track the storyline. The book is lengthy and takes its time building up to the ultimate reveal, while telling two riveting stories simultaneously.

Prose: Alvarado tells a story within a story through striking pose and a wealth of information, presented in an easy-to-follow style. The connection between the two main stories is revealed later in the book, but hints of where the plot is headed are peppered throughout. Alvarado's abundant use of notations can be helpful but also distracts.

Originality: By leading with Bertha in her declining years, and using the vehicle of Ceci telling Bertha a story to uncover the plot, Never to Forget takes a fresh approach to both narrative and exploring dementia.

Character/Execution: The novel centers around Bertha and mines the depths of her experiences. Her aspirations, loves, and motivations are presented clearly and cohesively. Other characters are crafted with varying degrees of detail, but Bertha’s daughter, in particular, is treated with veracity in regard to her role as caregiver.

Blurb: Never to Forget artfully flows between the past and present to whisper a stunning tale of one woman's courage and determination.

Date Submitted: May 04, 2023

Retired ER physician Alvarado (author of Tujunga) draws on his experiences as a doctor and his up-bringing in a Costa Rican Catholic family in this potent novel based upon the true events of a woman’s life in Costa Rica. Growing up in 1930s Costa Rica, Bertelina Solis dreams of being able to enjoy the same pursuits as men and wants to be a soldier, eventually ending up participating in the revolution. She is drawn to Julio Alderete, a Panamanian diplomat she is planning to marry, until she is raped by Oscar, a friend of Julio’s brother Nestor, and is forced to marry Oscar instead. Fast forward years later, Bertelina, who is divorced, lives in California and suffers from dementia, leading her to believe that her children want to have her removed from her home. When diagnosed with terminal cancer, her children come together to rally around her and support her in her last days.

Alvarado immerses the reader into revolutionary Costa Rica, as Bertelina becomes involved in the revolution, filled with the promise of equality for women. Alvarado depicts with persuasive power the struggle of the country’s women in the 1930s. He highlights how women had little choice about furthering their educations or even voting while deftly exposing the paradox of Bertelina’s quest for equality resulting in her rape and forced marriage to Oscar, who continued to abuse her throughout their marriage.

As Alvarado fast-forwards to present-day California, he capably exposes the tragic circumstances of Bertelina’s life as she fails to understand the impact of her dementia, while also being faced with the difficult diagnosis of terminal cancer. The culmination of the novel, which is its true apex, occurs when the author brings his story full circle, as the woman who spent a good portion of her life working to make her circumstances better for her and her children discovers fulfillment in her final moments, while surrounded by her caring children who symbolize one of her greatest achievements.

Takeaway: A striking historical novel of women and the Costa Rican revolution.

Great for fans of: Gabriela Garcia's Of Women and Salt, Deb Olin Unferth’s Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A