From Publishers Weekly
Framing Amat's bleak novel—her first published in the U.S.—is the horrific civil conflict among Colombia's Marxist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary groups and narcotics traffickers. As the story unfolds, Rat, a pensive young writer from Spain, learns that this war reaches indiscriminately ("Queen Cocaine pollutes everybody equally"). Having moved to an isolated seaside cabin with her lover, Wilson Cervantes, an older, brooding former journalist, Rat discovers that her impoverished neighbors in the village of Bahía Negra are all caught in the vicious machinery of cocaine production. Not even Wilson, who's from the area and whose ambition is to write a novel, can escape its pull. Amat deftly conjures the funereal landscape of Colombia's Pacific coast—an indifferent sea; intemperate rains; a jungle carpeted with snakes and punctuated by swamps—yet her characters, while intriguing, are often caricatured: an unbalanced grandmother; an animist visionary who was raped for years by her father and who converses with the skull of a friend; and introspective Rat herself, who, while narrating the novel in shifting first- and second-person voices, too often produces empty, diaristic epiphanies on the human condition ("We lose when we learn just as we lose when we die"). A traumatic forced evacuation of the village near the end adds gravitas to the book, which is an acute, grimly poetic account of a South American heart of darkness. (Mar.)
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Rat, a displaced young Catalan woman, has been lured by her literary passions and personal demons to the Colombian jungle by Wilson, her tormented mentor and difficult lover. There, amid ancient tribal roots, she quickly becomes entangled in a modern and predictably drug--fueled, if shockingly violent, guerrilla war. "Coca kills fear and coca creates fear," Amat reminds us, and the harried pace of cocaine production keeps this novel intense, even if most of the action is kept hauntingly offstage, one step ahead of her characters. Planes perpetually threaten overhead. But this is no drug novel, and not wholly war journalism--it's a desperate adventure story, dusted with just enough literary metacommentary, political innuendo, and complicated love to keep things messy. Like the jungle, it has its beautiful seclusions. If the abundance of writers has truly made writing an impossible occupation, as Wilson (whose last name is Cervantes) grumbles, then Amat's dark meditation is noteworthy indeed. Brendan DriscollCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved