A slight, episodic, charming and comic first novel about three Puerto Rican brothers in New York who, guided by their father's ghost, avoid the pitfalls (but not the pratfalls) life has waiting. In a scaled-down magical realism perfectly suited to his setting and subject, Roth picks up the story of the Cruzes as quiet, ineffectual Raymondo, driven by Maria, his mad harridan wife, attempts to hold up a bank with a water gun. Shot dead by the guard, Raymondo hangs on—as a ghost watching over his sons. On her own, Maria spends her welfare checks on TV sets, keeping her sons only in order to guard these acquisitions. When she gets dogs, she gives up her children, and they're taken Upstate, to the Sacred Home of Fallen Angels. Raymondo is delighted they've been removed from the Bronx, given a life in the country. Seen and heard only by Victor, the oldest, Raymondo appears when needed. Victor, wearing his leadership uncomfortably, receives a high-school diploma, but Felipe, strong, stupid and stolid, and JosÇ, the youngest, quick and glib, are given the boot. The brothers stay in the quiet town and set up housekeeping together. There follows a series of small adventures—a bank-robbing attempt, a car-theft ring, Victor joining a semipro football team, JosÇ's arrest back in the Bronx, and a series of day labor jobs—in which Raymondo, living a delightfully described, independent, ghostly life, often intercedes, until the bros are safely established in their own antique-dealing business. Pleasant, light, warm, generous, and funny.
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