Altagracia – her friends call her Grace – has a tattoo of Nuestra Señora de Altagracia on her shoulder, she's got a Ford Motor Company tattoo running down her leg, and she has grease worked so deep into her hands that it'll never wash out. Grace works at Sanchez Motorworks, customizing hot rods. Finding the line in a classic car is her calling.
Now Grace has to find the line in her own life. A few blocks around the Alverson Arms is all her world -- from the little grocery store where she buys beans, tamales, and cigarettes ("cigarettes can kill you," they tell her, but she smokes them anyway) to the record shop, to the library where Henry, a black man confined to a wheelchair, researches the mystery of life in death – but she's got unfinished business keeping her close to home.
Grace loves John, and John loves her, and that would be wonderful, except that John, like Grace, has unfinished business – he's haunted by the childhood death of his younger brother. He's never stopped feeling responsible. Like Grace in her way, John is an artist, and before their relationship can find its resolution, the two of them will have to teach each other about life and love, about hot rods and Elvis Presley, and about why it's necessary to let some things go.
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Mama Lua has to go to New Orleans for a family emergency, but her store is under attack and she can’t leave it unattended. She asks Mara and Gus if they can fill in for her while she’s gone, deal with the assorted, eccentric customers, and figure out who’s trying to shut her down.
When Mara and Gus arrive in Los Angeles, they have their hands full and Mama Lua is nowhere to be found. Aunt Tillie, who insisted on accompanying them, has her own reasons for wanting to be in Los Angeles, and isn’t being very forthcoming.
Mara and Gus soon find themselves knee-deep in paranormal weirdness. Not only does Mara catch a wannabe vampire feeding on the customers, there’s a flesh-eating demon on the loose, working its way up the food chain, and now someone’s called up a homunculus.
It’s up to Mara and Gus to sort everything out and can that demon before it claims any more victims on its homicidal snacking binge. But they need to get things under control fast, before Mara goes into labor and her unusual baby makes its long-awaited appearance in their world.