Rabin’s debut comedy follows two childhood friends and their misadventures in Brazil with a Jesuit priest, a bomb-loving career criminal, and an unassuming Nazi.
Twenty-three-year-old Hart’s new job takes him from a one-bedroom apartment in Westwood, California, to São Paulo. His first day as senior manager for the Maytag Corporation has yet to begin when his best friend, Simon Jovenda, apparently kidnaps him. Simon, who’d grown up with Hart, had left for Brazil some time ago to find his father’s family and catch some Nazis. So Hart’s justifiably baffled when he winds up on a plane with his assistant, Carmen Dos Reis, Simon, and former German army medic/tennis player Raymond Gil. They land and trek through the jungle to meet a couple of Simon’s friends: a priest and a gruff man covered in tattoos. Meanwhile, criminal boss Julian “Shadow” Coelho, fed up with the greed of local mob PCC, implores his convict buddy Carlos Dos Reis to make something more of his life. Carlos teams up with four mobsters—and Shadow supporters—to cause a bit of property damage in São Paulo using homemade bombs. Carlos’ path will ultimately intersect with Hart’s before the younger man can understand his involuntary journey. But even Simon, who claims he’s trying to save Hart, admits that his original plan may have gone off the rails. The author initially structures his novel like a series of vignettes, bouncing around the timeline with myriad characters, including pregnant Manuela Dos Reis. It’s never confusing, though, and consistently entertaining courtesy of Rabin’s humor-laced prose, foreshadowing Hart’s propensity for carsickness and later delivering a revolting but hilarious moment. There are links to the stories, too, before everything comes together at the end, such as repeated references to the upcoming 2016 Olympics in Brazil. Rabin, in fact, so meticulously develops the characters and their backgrounds that the eventual reveals are hardly surprising; in a few instances, they’re almost inevitable. Nonetheless, the book’s practically buzzing with quirky subplots, like Hart’s boss’ seeming obsession with tracking down his employee and the tale of how Hart inadvertently started working for a pornographic film company.
Readers may see where it’s going, but this droll narrative’s still a witty, boisterous ride.