A luminously written debut novel, winner of the 1997 Milkweed Prize for Fiction, about love and ideals under siege in 1960s Uruguay. Though the story that Magda, the narrator, tells on her return to Uruguay after seven years abroad in exile is primarily a love story, it is grounded in the revolutionary politics of a particular time. In the '60s, activists, despairing of their country's totalitarianism, joined a revolutionary movement--the Tupamaros--to work covertly for the establishment of a democratic and socialist state. And though the leftist politics described here seem more often to issue more from the heart than the head, the discussions add a realistic dimension to a genre in which effusions of passion are more often the norm. Magda has returned to Uruguay because she has learned that her lover Marco is to be released from prison. She moves in with her old friend Emilia and begins to explain why she's been so long away. Magda recalls how, as the youngest in a distinguished family, she was brought up to be a young lady of traditional habits and interests; she describes lyrically the childhood pleasures of the well-to-do. But Magda also relates how she befriended the beggar Gabriela; listened as Emilia's mother talked of revolution; heard ChÃ¢ Guevara speak, and was assaulted by the police in the subsequent riot; and admiringly watched Marco, a handsome young neighbor and soldier, attempt to help the poor. Soon a member of the Tupamaros, she spied on the US and British, was imprisoned, then eventually released only with Marco's help. But Marco, who had used his military rank as a cover for revolutionary activities, was finally arrested, and Magda fled the country. The two lovers are now reunited, but their happiness will be brief. Love and the past beautifully evoked in a faraway place, only occasionally marred by some intrusive agitprop commentary. The Uruguayan-born Bridal, now living in the US, is a writer to watch.