SAMBA DREAMERS by Kathleen de Azevedo


Email this review


Overwrought first novel set in the mid-1970s about a Brazilian immigrant tortured by his past.

Jose Francisco Verguerio Silva, a former political prisoner, arrives at LAX and transforms himself into Joe Silva, restaurant dishwasher. Although plagued by terrible flashbacks, Silva manages a fragile romance with Sherri, a waitress. Their casual union leads to marriage and twin boys, Jeffy and Keffy. To provide for his family, Joe takes a job driving for a Hollywood tour-bus company, where he meets Rosea Socorro, moody ex-con and daughter of a Carmen Miranda–like actress. The two begin an unsteady affair that jeopardizes Silva’s already crumbling marriage. Socorro is obsessed with Brazil, although she’s never been there. Formerly married to an anthropologist whose work focused on that country, she grew so disgusted with her husband that she eventually burned down their house, a crime for which she did time. Silva and Socorro’s affair leads to a murder and a possible suicide in the Pacific Ocean; eventually, he abandons his family and returns to Brazil. While Silva is likable enough, Socorro remains opaque, with little to define her character other than rage. De Azevedo’s prose is clumsy at best: “Rosea knew she could chase Joe with doglike perseverance, with Amazon longing strong enough to bust three million coconuts,” or (on the lovers’ first kiss), “Their tongues and lips sloshed at first, then they kissed with the powerful silence that precedes a jungle massacre.” Socorro’s ex, his adopted son Birdboy (half bird, half Amazon) and a lonely widower round out the tale.

A confused effort that falls short.

Pub Date: March 9th, 2006
ISBN: 0-8165-2490-4
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Univ. of Arizona
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2006