The 16 previously published short stories in this first-rate collection illuminate the face of poverty in present-day Brazil.
A devoted son talks a deliveryman into driving his malaria-stricken father to a bus stop in a village “not far” away, in what turns out to be a six-hour journey in the dark over barely discernible dirt tracks. A disillusioned wife fantasizes about a stranger who stops at her adobe farmhouse asking for a drink of water. Two brothers murder an honest, peaceful man to steal his land. A farmer refuses to kill the foxes that eat his chickens, and a timid friar receives death threats when he fights to prevent corporations from driving poor families from their homes. In this world of dirt floors, kerosene lamps, cornhusk mattresses and twisted lives, the ruling forces seem to be greed, malice and fear. But there’s also kindness and a certain kind of justice, as well as physical and spiritual healing. And once in a while, the poor man actually gets the better of the rich one. Powers (The Book of Jotham, 2013), who’s spent most of his adult life in Brazil, has an intimate knowledge of its people, and he writes with a graceful simplicity that lends his characters a lifelike verve. Although some are very short—only three pages in one instance—these stories pack a powerful punch, and despite being vividly realistic, they also have a parablelike quality. What’s lacking, though, is ambiguity. Nonetheless, they’ll stay with readers long after the last page, leaving them to reflect on the jagged landscape of the human heart.
Small, intelligent fiction that shines a light on big themes.