It is 1937, and Europe is on the brink of war. Hitler is circulating a most-wanted list of “cultural degenerates”—artists, writers, and thinkers whose work is deemed antithetical to the new regime. To prevent the destruction of her favorite art (and artists), the impetuous American heiress and modern art collector Leonora Calaway begins chartering boats and planes for an elite group of surrealists to Costalegre, a mysterious resort in the Mexican jungle.
The story of what happens to these artists when they reach their destination is told from the point of view of Lara, Leonora’s neglected fifteen-year-old daughter. Forced from a young age to live with her mother’s eccentric whims, tortured lovers, and entourage of gold-diggers, Lara suffers from emotional, educational, and geographical instability that a Mexican sojourn with surrealists isn’t going to help. But when she meets the outcast Dadaist sculptor Jack Klinger, Lara thinks she might have found the understanding she so badly craves.
Heartbreaking and strange, Costalegre is inspired by the real-life relationship between the heiress Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter, Pegeen. Courtney Maum triumphs with this wildly imaginative and curiously touching story of a privileged teenager who has everything a girl could wish for—except a mother who loves her back.