The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos
a novel by
Rodrigo Restrepo Montoya
Entrancing and sentimental, told with wit and sharp insight, The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos examines the joys and traumas of the Latinx American experience through the lens of a young man awakening to the nuances of identity, love, colonization, and home.
As Gregorio recovers from a soccer injury, he relives a decisive period of his life when he is eighteen and adrift. His parents are divorcing, his sister is estranged, and his poor goalkeeping has just cost his soccer team their most important game of the season. As a graduation present, Gregorio’s defiant uncle Nico takes him to Colombia, where he is introduced to old friends, family memories, and a culture ailing after years of conflict and colonization. When they return, Gregorio follows in his uncle’s footsteps and pursues employment at an art museum in Washington, D.C., where he moves into the basement of a townhouse owned by Magdalena, a Basque exile he befriends. As the year wends on and anti-immigrant rhetoric reaches an apex, Gregorio notes the disparities in his community while struggling to define his own identity and direction. Gregorio joins his friend Raúl’s soccer team, resuming his role as goalkeeper, seeking purpose and redemption.
The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos is a compassionate story of benevolence, memory, and preservation that considers what has been lost, what must never be forgotten, and our collective responsibility to one another. Poetic and thoughtful, Rodrigo Restrepo Montoya has given us an unforgettable voice in Gregorio Pasos: astute, charming, and illuminating.
AN EXCERPT: Electric Literature presents "A Fresh Start in a City Ruled by History," and excerpt from The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos, recommended by Tariq Shah.
AN EXCERPT: The Offing presents "Medellín," an excerpt from The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos.
Goodreads review can be found here: The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos.
"A young Colombian American grapples with injury, a fractured family and his personal identity in this transnational coming-of-age journey."
—New York Times
"At the center of any great book is a character who connects with the reader—one who pulls us into their dilemmas and asks us to confront their struggle alongside them, to meet the people they do, and to immerse ourselves in their world. The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos, the debut novel by Colombian-American writer Rodrigo Restrepo Montoya, is one such book: a wonderful story that should not be overlooked by contemporary readers... Rodrigo Restrepo Montoya’s work is wonderful. This story is told with a playful, vivid and bouncy wit, writing Gregorio Pasos with the mercurial wisdom of an insider."
—Edward Banchs, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Review: The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos
"Rodrigo Restrepo Montoya has crafted a debut novel that overflows with generosity, honesty, tenderness, and hope... As I was reading Montoya’s words, I was nodding at the dexterity in which it moves between two worlds: the U.S. and Colombia... This novel doesn’t shy away from narrating stories about Colombia’s violent history or talking about death or grief, and yet, the prose carries everything with luminosity and grace. Gregorio Pasos is a singular character. One that, despite the incredible grief and hardship his family has experienced, narrates the world with an ease that makes every page shine with empathy and wonder. Gregorio remains curious and open to the world around him. He contemplates finding his path while not leaving behind everything that has made him who he is."
—María Alejandra Barrios, The Rumpus
Interview: "Main Character as Witness: A Conversation with Rodrigo Restrepo Montoya"
"As Gregorio convalesces from having some ribs busted in a soccer game, he looks back on a formative stretch of years of his life: his parents splitting up, his graduation from high school in Connecticut, living with his dying uncle Nico who takes him to Colombia, and his return to the States and his encounters and experiences there. There’s a warmth and solemnity to Gregorio’s voice, as he reflects on death and strain, and the almost inarticulable woe of being an immigrant in the States post-2016. Restrepo Montoya, with poignancy, precision, and subtle force, explores the choices that lead us to the places we end up, and what we carry with us in memory and in action... There’s love at the core of the book, for family, for teammates and pals, for partners... Gregorio is observant, sensitive, funny, and a goalkeeper, too, guarded, guarding, keeping close and active watch."
—Nina MacLaughlin, The Boston Globe
Review: "Debut novel navigates immigration in post-2016 America"
"Deeply compelling and impactful, The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos by Rodrigo Restrepo Montoya is a stunning reflection on community, grief, and cultural identity... Marked by a sparse, understated style that masterfully conveys the varied emotions welling under its surface, Holy Days is a carefully conceived and stirring debut. Restrepo Montoya’s bildungsroman explores themes of loss, political instability, and fraught family dynamics with a nuance that is impressive in a book of such brevity. It is a subtle work that carefully observes the world it inhabits, portraying it with bare sincerity, achingly attentive to the small intricacies that shape people’s lives. It reveals its brilliance quietly, under its breath, offering readers a moving story that will linger in their minds long after the last page has been turned."
—Isabella Pilotta Gois, Latino Book Review
REVIEW: The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos
"I was alternatively exhilarated and giddy with Restrepo Montoya’s gently intelligent, effortlessly humorous story of the novel’s title character as he experiences small moments of self-realization and enlightenment both in the United States and his homeland of Colombia. And as I dug deeper into the novel, I found myself cheering on this sometimes perplexed but always striving protagonist who sometimes plays the role of spectator in a world filled with contradictions, mystery, and ultimately beauty. Simply put, Restrepo Montoya is a talented and mature craftsman who has written a debut novel that delights and edifies the reader through its humor and humanity."
—Daniel A. Olivas, Latino Book Review
INTERVIEW: "Rodrigo Restrepo Montoya Regarding His Debut Novel, The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos"
"[Gregorio's] emotional generosity infuses what is a very serious book about loss—of jobs, of people, of stolen indigenous land, of home and even the idea of it—with a sense of quiet hope. Through Gregorio, Restrepo Montoya poses big questions about the nature of forgiveness and love, and what it means to live a life with an open heart. When it comes to Gregorio Pasos, 'holy' is the absolute right word. An absolutely gorgeous book from a notable new voice in fiction."
—Wendy J. Fox, Electric Literature
"15 Small Press Books You Should Be Reading This Summer"
"Rather than situate Gregorio’s coming-of-age on either continent, the novel draws parallels between Colombia's violent history and the United States under Trump’s presidency. These parallels are written in impactful prose that feels weighted with grief... Restrepo Montoya walks a fine line between scathing and maudlin and invites readers to listen in on the conversations that happen between families in times of conflict."
(Read the full review of The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos)
"Well, what now? This is the dreadful, unspoken question that drives Gregorio, the protagonist of Rodrigo Restrepo Montoya’s novel The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos, who finds himself in that strange liminal zone between high school and adulthood, where meaning is scarce and worth more than anything. From Bogotá to Washington, DC and into the past, he weathers death, divorce, and history as he attempts to answer this question for himself."
—Tariq Shah, Electric Literature
"A Fresh Start in a City Ruled by History": An excerpt from The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos, recommended by Tariq Shah
"This week, host Jason Jefferies is joined by Rodrigo Restrepo Montoya, who discusses his new debut novel The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos. Topics of conversation include the relativity of time, sports novels, pain pills, Colombia, the value of literature, and much more! Bookin' Podcast is sponsored by indie bookstore Explore Booksellers.
—INTERVIEW: Bookin’ Podcast: Rodrigo Restrepo Montoya (July 9, 2023)
"What I absolutely loved most about this novel is the blend of Gregorio’s personal reflections with the larger context and experiences of his family (both in Columbia and as immigrants in the U.S.)... His writing is authentic and heartfelt, intimate and reflective, in all the very best ways."
—Beth Mowbray, review
"A quiet, luminous read from the inimitable @twodollarradio press! Restrepo Montoya writes 'the only letter is a love letter.' This is that exactly. A letter to family, heritage, and home, written and felt with incalculable love. Summer is halfway over! Get this to the beach!"
—Bex Frankeberger, view
"Gregorio is recovering from a soccer injury, but that is the least of his problems. His parents are divorcing, he cost his team the big game and his sister isn’t speaking to the family. As a graduation gift, his uncle takes him to Colombia where he is reunited with friends and confronted with the realities of colonization. Changed by the experience, Gregorio returns to the U.S. where he confronts the anti-immigrant sentiment and his own reality."
"Best indie book club picks of summer 2023"
"An unembellished gravitating story of loss and the stories it leaves. [Restrepo Montoya's] writing is relatable and digestible to the point I finished this book in one setting. Looking forward to recommending in the store."
—Sierra Hollabaugh, Bookery Cincy (Cincinnati, OH)
"Restrepo Montoya debuts with a compassionate and peripatetic coming-of-age tale about a young Colombian American man... Restrepo Montoya succeeds at capturing the restless energy of youth."
(Read the full review of The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos)
"The Holy Days of Gregorio by Rodrigo Restrepo Montoya is an immigrant story, but it's also a novel about care, community, and family. This is an excellent debut about coming of age during the 2016 election in a changing country. Highly recommended!"
—Caitlin Baker, Island Books (Mercer Island, WA)
"This Latinx American coming of age story has so much for so many... Identity, love, soccer, humor, the sweeping truths of American immigration—The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos will have you antsy to crack it open every chance you get.
—Joe Walters, Independent Book Review
"Indie Books to Watch in Summer 2023"
"The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos is a testament to the beauty and searing heartbreak of learning and becoming. Restrepo Montoya's prose is sincere and inviting, allowing the reader to feel every line. One of my favorites of the year."
—Gary Lovely, Prologue Bookshop (Columbus, OH)
"The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos is a slim novel that travels far and makes a meaningful, revelatory journey. Gregorio's voice, without straining for effect, is solemn yet pleasing, utterly irresistible, placing the reader under a spell of turning pages from start to finish. Rodrigo Restrepo Montoya's debut novel doesn't shy away from real problems, and it does so with a heartening—and heartrending—combination of sensitivity and candor."
—Jamel Brinkley, author of A Lucky Man and Witness
"Meditative and direct, Restrepo Montoya’s prose illuminates truths so clearly you can see straight through them to the world around you, and even into yourself. Prescient and timeless, dealing with the inseparability of life and decay, this story, through it all, allowed me to sit deeply with love, family, and forgiveness. Pay attention, a refreshingly honest and singular voice has arrived."
—Dantiel W. Moniz, author of Milk Blood Heat
"The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos is a debut so deeply felt, so effortlessly human, it feels like we've known Gregorio all of our lives. A slyly funny, slyly somber novel about family, heritage and the burden of finding a home in America. By turns playful and profound, familiar and new, The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos is brilliant and Restrepo Montoya a natural and gifted storyteller."
—Mark Haber, author of Saint Sebastian's Abyss and Reinhardt's Garden
"Tender and balanced and true. I read it in a day and received it like aloe, like a quiet blessing. The kind of book for which, upon completion, one feels grateful, nourished, and well, very lucky."
—Tariq Shah, author of Whiteout Conditions
BOOK CLUB & READER GUIDE: Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Gregorio, the main character of The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos, is nicknamed “Portero” by his soccer community. In English, portero translates as goalie or keeper; in Spanish, it also carries the meanings of guard or watchman. How are these descriptions fitting for Gregorio? Talk about different elements of the story through this lens.
2. While nursing an injury he sustained as a goalkeeper, and reminiscing about religiously watching soccer games with his family, Gregorio concludes: “Goalkeepers are, at best, secondary to the plot. They are supposed to fail.” (p. 57) — Discuss the implications of this statement for this story. Do you think Gregorio is right?
3. Regarding the title of the novel: why are these the “holy days” for Gregorio? How would you summarize his personal, cultural, and political awareness over the course of the novel, from high school graduation to his first time setting out on his own, living in a new city away from his family members? Take into consideration the structure of the novel: what are Part One and Part Two comprised of, and why do you think that is?
4. How does the book investigate themes of being an immigrant in the United States? What are the implications of the novel being set specifically in the year 2016? Discuss Gregorio’s awareness of these issues, as a person who was raised in the US, compared to that of his uncle and parents, who emigrated from Colombia. If you have a personal connection to the terms “1.5 generation” or “second generation”: as a group, take turns discussing how Gregorio’s circumstances are similar to and different from your own.
5. Discuss the recurrence of substance abuse in the novel: which characters have significant addictions? Why do you think this is? How do Gregorio’s addictions change over the course of the book?
6. What parallels are drawn between the history of Gregorio’s parents’ homeland of Colombia and that of the United States?
7. Talk about the significance of The Birds of Peace—a two-piece sculpture in Medellín, Colombia, created by the Colombian artist Fernando Botero—for Nico, and for the novel as a whole.
8. [“We had the land,” Nico said, “and now we have the Bible.”] (p. 39) — How is the church and its different roles, in both Colombia and the US, analyzed in this novel? Consider Gregorio’s point of view after his trip with Nico to Colombia. Consider, too, Gregorio’s position in an after-school program housed in a Columbia Heights’ Catholic church. What and why did Gregorio write on the pastor’s front door?
9. What would you say that Gregorio learns from his dear uncle, Nico? What lessons from Nico does Gregorio take with him as he ventures out into the world on his own? What does Nico mean when he says: “There is only one kind of letter. A love letter. To write a real one, you have to be sorry.” (p. 20)
10. “I spent most of my time at the museum. I enjoyed sitting by The Throne, regardless of whatever people would say when they looked at it.” (p. 103) — Why do you think that Gregorio has such a strong attachment to the work of art called The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly, created by the artist Saint James Hampton?'
11. Juxtapose the gold in James Hampton’s The Throne — created as a monument to his god, made of found objects covered in metallic foil to appear as though silver and gold — to the art made of the precious metal in Colombia’s The Museum of Gold, featuring artifacts created prior to the Spanish conquest. What do the works of art have in common? How can these dueling representations of gold be used to examine value?
12. Many characters in the book, including James Hampton, work as janitors: who are they? Why is this job significant? Talk about how classism is explored in The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos.
13. Gregorio first meets Raúl on Election Day, in Washington, DC, on a busy street corner and thinks — "On any other day, I would’ve thanked him and kept walking” (p. 108) — what happens next, and why do you believe Gregorio has this particular reaction? What would you say has shifted in Gregorio’s awareness at this point in the story?
14. “Magdalena spoke in perfect English and perfect Spanish, though she never mixed the two… She spoke, it seemed, with the voices of two people.” (p. 85) — Talk about Magdalena, a Basque exile with whom Gregorio lives. What is their relationship like? What role does Magdalena play in Gregorio’s life? Talk about what we eventually learn about Magdalena’s history.
15. How does the idea of home play a role in this novel? Begin by examining Gregorio’s journey in this regard. Then also discuss the rest of the main characters and what home is for them.
16. Talk about Gregorio’s romantic relationships: how do they evolve with time, and why do you think this is? Consider Gregorio’s high school crush, his relationship with Magdalena, and finally, Ramona, whom we are introduced to in the opening chapter, set in the present day.
17. Examine Gregorio's choice to not pursue a college degree, as most of his high school acquaintances, and his sister, a lawyer, had. What experiences does Gregorio have around the Georgetown campus in DC? As a group, talk about education through lived experience compared to institutional education.
18. Gregorio says: “Up until that game, I’d never said anything to a referee other than thank you.” (p. 148) — What happens with the referee? How is Gregorio’s disposition different in this scene than in other parts of the book? Discuss the reasons why you think this is. What is the significance of this particular scene appearing where it does, close to the novel’s end?
Rodrigo Restrepo Montoya is a Colombian American writer living and working in Tucson, Arizona. His writing has appeared in Triangle House Review, Joyland, X-R-A-Y, and SPECTRA. The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos (Two Dollar Radio, 2023) is his debut novel.
Enjoy a sneak peek of select pages from The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos!
View The Holy Days of Gregorio Pasos sneak peek here on Issuu.com
Cover design: Eric Obenauf.
Cover photos: top: Biodiversity Heritage Library/Flickr; center left: thom
masat/Unsplash; center right: Victor_g/Unsplash; bottom left: Fernanda Fierro/
Unsplash; bottom right: Jakob Owens/Unsplash.
Author photograph: Courtesy of the author.
FORMAT: Paperback (1st printing with gatefold)
LIST PRICE: $17.95
PRINT ISBN: 9781953387332
DIGITAL ISBN: 9781953387349
RELEASE DATE: 7/11/2023
SIZE: 5.5" x 7.5"
Printed in Canada by Marquis, with the following environmental statement:
*Printed on Rolland Enviro. This paper contains 100% post-consumer fiber, is manufactured using renewable energy - Biogas and processed chlorine free.
*FSC certified paper (inside and cover).