A lyrical family saga that brings to light an oft forgotten period of Central American history.
Tomás is just a small boy when his father, Raúl, leaves him and his mother, Victoria, in order to fight in the 1927 conflict raging over the American occupation of Nicaragua. When Raúl is executed, Tomás struggles to grow up without his father’s guidance under the influence of an indifferent, bitter mother. Raised mostly by his Miskito nanny, Sofia, Tomás grows up a sensitive boy—more introspective than his cousin Fausto, who seems desperate to prove his strength to his own disciplinarian father. As a preteen, Tomás meets his cousin Ana, with whom he has a childlike and then more adult romance; at first, however, his view is that sex is too dirty to experience with the pure Ana. (His first sexual act was as an adolescent, when Fausto’s father’s friends pressured him into nearly raping a young prostitute.) Tomás eventually goes to medical school, while Fausto becomes a soldier, but the boys, who were once as close as brothers, find that violence, war, and love can tear them apart. Author Peek manages to weave the 20th-century history of Nicaragua together with a moving story of betrayal and redemption, without sacrificing the tale’s descriptive beauty. When Tomás finds himself in the middle of a war, for example, Peek gives readers a brief, lyrical interlude: “Tomás no longer trembled. He was aware that the grasshoppers had started chirping again. Dawn was still far away, yet he could imagine the outline of the mountains, the tall trees swinging in the night breeze, and the conger monkeys perching on their branches.” Such moments of reflection throw other passages of violence and cruelty into high relief, making for an intricately textured narrative.
A beautifully realized novel that doesn’t shy away from describing the horrors of war as well as life’s moments of beauty.