In Marzán’s (The Bonjour Gene, 2005, etc.) novel, a Puerto Rico–born lawyer struggles to find his identity after years in America, a country that views him through a narrow lens.
Eduardo “Eddie” Loperena, who moved from Puerto Rico to New York as a child, is known as “The Community’s Lawyer.” The Harvard Law graduate opened an office with a fellow attorney and fought for civil rights on behalf of Puerto Ricans living in the United States. But by 1987, Eddie, nearly 40 and newly divorced, leaves his practice and prepares to leave the States, where he feels equality isn’t possible. He plans to start anew, envisioning a place he calls Nowhere, and become a writer. Social justice, however, calls in the United States. An acquaintance asks Eddie to look into a case involving a man named Esteban, who’s facing a charge of attempted murder of a cop. It turns out that Esteban happens to be the half brother of Eddie’s ex-wife, Graziela. But it’s another favor that may land Eddie in serious trouble. His childhood friend, Carlos Benítez, cryptically asks Eddie to hold onto a couple of suitcases of “important papers.” Unfortunately, Carlos is now a drug dealer, and Detective Gerald Duffy, a former schoolmate of Eddie’s and Carlos’, links Eddie to the latter and, presumably, Carlos’ illicit deeds as well. Scrutiny from authorities may prohibit Eddie from attaining his freedom. But he wants to escape a country that hasn’t truly accepted him, and he’s weary of what he deems “The Conversation”—a never-ending discussion of race-related issues such as Puerto Ricans’ voting rights and certain Americans’ “English-Only” agenda.
Marzán has created a dynamic protagonist who has his share of fallibilities. His infidelity prompted his divorce, for example. The novel has numerous tender moments portrayed via Eddie’s recurrent boyhood memories, such as his Mami Lalia schooling him on romance: “A woman truly in love…could see into your soul.” Throughout, the author ably addresses various political perspectives. Eddie clearly respects others’ opinions. His sister Rosy’s fiance, George, is an advocate for Puerto Rico’s statehood; Eddie adamantly disagrees but makes a concerted effort to avoid the topic and a probable argument. There are times when the story is grim, and it includes more than one shocking death. But Eddie’s persistent resolve, even as he’s sorting out his personal convictions regarding Puerto Ricans in America, is a buoyant, appealing trait, and it lightens the tone. Additionally, Marzán’s prose tends toward the poetic: “Pandemonium broke out as the radical middle and the entire youthful rear sector stood on their chairs to hoot and cheer while the suits in the front booed violently, stomping on the floor, provoking the radicals to throw their balled-up programs like grenades at the front rows.”
Relays political notions of racial and social identity through a smart, sympathetic, and laudable lead.