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INCIDENT AT AKABAL by Joanne Omang

INCIDENT AT AKABAL

By Joanne Omang

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-395-58840-5
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

 The Washington Post's first female foreign correspondent joins the ranks of journalists and academics who've turned to fiction to explore revolution and repression in Central America. But Omang's first novel stands out from the crowd: eschewing melodrama, dispensing with Yankee characters, and transcending the usual stereotypes. After an Army barracks is bombed in a country clearly based on Guatemala, soldiers track the culprit to the Indian village of Akabal, where--in spite of much injustice--most people have stayed out of politics, carefully avoiding conflict with both the government's forces and the guerrillas. An Army lieutenant, caught in the midst of conflicting directives as well as rage over the violent death of his brother, demands that the people of Akabal identify and surrender the bombing suspect, Miguel Angel Kanak, to prove their loyalty--or else. Miguel's neighbors thus face a fateful dilemma: they believe in his innocence; they know the Army has massacred entire villages for alleged collaboration with the guerrillas; and they have legitimate reason to believe the Army may wipe Akabal off the map even if they surrender Miguel. Omang's story centers around the inner and group deliberations of the threatened villagers as they decide--under deadline--on a course of action. Except for a few scenes (e.g., the seduction-near-rape of the circuit-riding priest by the promiscuous Indian witch), Omang's humane novel rings unerringly true: a welcome and unaccustomed portrayal of villagers and soldiers as thinking, feeling, three- dimensional characters who grapple convincingly with crisis.