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 A rambling debut novel--the first of the publisher's New American Voices Series--that reads almost as much like a set of family footnotes as it does like fiction. Gerard Manley Hopkins (his family, running out of the names of signers of the Declaration, resorted to those of poets) is a 40ish, divorced restaurateur in Tela, Guatemala, a rebel-agitated mountain town. Jerry (as he's known) takes pride in having earned the respect of the locals and having become a fatherly figure to his employees. But even though he's happy, he remains plagued by his past: not only by the two-hundred-year family journal--handed on from eldest male to eldest male--that he's failed to keep up on to date, but also by his soured marriage and the son he's never seen. But exactly why Jerry bottles up and flees at every hint of opposition is unclear, which can't help but weaken the book's pivotal event. That climax begins with one of Jerry's restaurant employees being hoisted from a nearby lake with a bullet hole between his eyes. When the murder is swept under the carpet by the grizzled, sweat-soaked, local officials, Jerry finds himself itching to investigate, knowing full well the possible consequences for him as a gringo in the politically unstable backcountry. Still, feeling as if he's allowed himself to be pushed around by people and history his whole life, he takes action, tracks down the murderer, finds him to be a powerful anti-rebel. In a rushed moment of fists and knives, Jerry must make a decision that this time determines his destiny--literally. His fictional memoir itself--the book--becomes Jerry's addition to the ancient family journal, and at times the story and structure are fresh, even original. But absent motivation along with often snorey prose (or worse--``Me and Audrey picked a spot beneath the willows. . . '') don't help color the novel or make it a piece of whole cloth.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1997
ISBN: 1-877727-68-7
Page count: 186pp
Publisher: White Pine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1997