A Novel


When a nanny from war-torn El Salvador moves in with a wealthy American family, the result is an inspiring story about the power of love to cross cultural boundaries.

Cecilia Samartin’s most impressive work yet, Vigil is told from the perspective of Ana, a middle aged woman who is waiting at the deathbed of her husband as he loses his battle against cancer. While she waits, she thinks back on her life and the incredible journey that brought her from war-torn El Salvador, to a convent in the U.S., and finally to a wealthy California estate where she was employed as the nanny for a dysfunctional family caught up in the throes of decadent life. Despite her traumatic past, she is able to bring a wealth of love and harmony to her affluent yet spiritually bereft employers—gifts that no money could ever buy.

In the course of Samartin’s work as a psychotherapist, she has been awed by those rare individuals who not only survive after having endured unimaginable trauma, but flourish, and are able to promote the same in those around them. Vigil is the story of one such woman and the family that she sets her heart on saving. A heart-wrenching story of love and loss, Vigil is Cecilia Samartin’s most powerful novel to date. As Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander said, “Samartin writes with shimmering grace about homeland, exile, passion, and loyalty.” Readers will be spellbound by Vigil’s magical language and provocative themes.
This Edition:
9781416549529 Trade Paperback $15.00 Washington Square Press July 21, 2009
Other US Editions:
9781439165485 eBook $10.99 Atria Books July 21, 2009
Retailers for Trade Paperback:
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Cecilia Samartin


As Ana sits at her husband’s deathbed, she thinks back on the incredible journey of her life. Ana’s story takes her from war-torn El Salvador to a convent in the United States and finally to a wealthy California estate where she is employed as the nanny for the Trellises, a dysfunctional family caught up in the throes of a decadent life. Despite her own emotional wounds, she is able to bring love and healing to her affluent yet spiritually bereft employers—gifts that no money could ever buy.

Ana’s emotional attachment to her young charges leads to her staying on at the Trellis home for longer than she ever could have imagined. As she grows to love Teddy and Jessie as if they were her own flesh and blood, they eventually grow up and move out of the house, and her abiding affection for their father transforms into something deeper and more powerful. Faced with many challenges to her own sense of morality, Ana must confront her own spiritual longings and reconcile them with her understanding that love may have found her in the very place she least expected.


1. “My father’s only saving grace was that before he disappeared he’d given my mother a magnificent sewing machine complete with a foot pedal and a carved wooden cabinet beneath.” (13) What important roles does this sewing machine play in Ana see more

More Books from this Author

Tarnished Beauty
Broken Paradise

About the Author

Cecilia Samartin
Photo © Aaron Gil

Cecilia Samartin

Cecilia Samartin was born in Havana in the midst of Fidel Castro's revolution. She grew up in Los Angeles as a fully bicultural, bilingual American. She studied psychology at UCLA and marriage and family therapy at Santa Clara University. Deeply concerned with the lack of Spanish speakers in her profession, Cecilia has practiced within the Latino communities in some of the most impoverished inner-city areas of San Jose and Los Angeles. She lives with her British-born husband in San Gabriel, California.