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TATTOOED SOLDIER Hardcover – April 30, 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Delphinium; 1st edition (April 30, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1883285151
  • ISBN-13: 978-1883285159
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,876,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The first novel from L.A. Times reporter Tobar is a gripping tale of revenge set on the lowest rung of L.A.'s social ladder, amidst the hardscrabble lives of illegal immigrants and the homeless. The fates of Guatemalan death-squad veteran Guillermo Longoria and traumatized, homeless refugee Antonio Bernal have been entwined since the day Longoria killed Antonio's wife and son in Guatemala. Obsessed by memories of his family and also by the mental picture of the assassin with a yellow jaguar tattooed on his forearm, Antonio ends up as one of LA.'s drifting dispossessed. By chance he sees Longoria in MacArthur Park and is electrified by the possibility of avenging his loved ones. Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, we meet Longoria, a peasant who was forced to join the army but eventually grew to love the power it gave him. He absorbed the twisted logic that justified the massacre of an entire village to drive out the "infection" of communism, but he too is now haunted by memories. The novel's denouement occurs during the 1992 L.A. riots, a colossal day of reckoning when the powerless underclass of L.A. erupts in fury and when both men move toward their fates. Tobar's prose is clear and crisp, authentically colored by the liberal use of Spanish phrases. He never sentimentalizes Antonio's tragic story, and even the hateful Longoria is depicted with understanding of the social forces that molded him. The complexities of these two characters give this novel power and weight. 7500 first printing.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

California journalist Tobar's disturbing debut neatly and credibly brings two Guatemalan adversaries together by chance on the streets of Los Angeles, where they play out the endgame of a deadly struggle begun in their homeland. Antonio, once a middle-class government worker in his native land, is now homeless in L.A., having seven years ago just missed the death squad that came for him but instead killed his wife and young son. His despair and shame at having fled have never left him, but when one day he glimpses a Jaguar tattoo on the arm of a chess player in MacArthur Park, recognizing one of his family's killers, Antonio knows a new feeling: vengeance. The ex-soldier Longoria, as yet unaware that he's being stalked, goes about his highly regimented routine, striving to better himself at chess while holding down a security job at a crooked Guatemalan parcel service and keeping his small apartment--where he has a collection of photos of his victims--spotless. Antonio, all but invisible as a homeless man, studies his enemy carefully, then decides to act. But his plan to attack the sergeant at the chess tables with a length of pipe, in broad daylight, is ill-conceived and goes awry. Only wounded, Longoria is now wary, but Antonio doesn't give up. He buys a gun with the help of a homeless friend, and, in the chaos of the South Central riots that erupt soon after, the hunter and his prey meet again in a confrontation that is protracted but decisiveand through it Antonio is finally able to put his shame to rest. Tobars characters are thin, but his tale not only vividly reenacts the horror of death-squad victims everywhere, but also sheds an honest and even light on the stark realities facing the homelessand many immigrantsin America. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

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I was assigned to read this for my class, Latinas and Revolutions.
CRuiz87
Like I've mentioned previously...do judge a book by its cover, since it is the first impression and often its the only opportunity you get.
thewestsiderla
The book starts in Guatemala and covers a period of history that was suppressed in the US for decades.
S. Cammer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mike Molek on May 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
Hector Tobar's depressing but masterfully-written The Tattooed Soldier is a compelling story of tragedy and revenge, and provides a deep insight into the poverty-stricken lives of immigrants to Los Angeles.
Several background stories, each focusing on a different major character, intertwine to tell the tale of Antonio Bernal. Antonio, a bookish young man from a lower-class family, attends a university in Guatemala. This is where he meets his future wife, Elena; a passionate revolutionary, fearless and irreverent of the government's attempts to quell such actions, Elena worries that the ones she loves will suffer for her actions. One day, a "death squad," with leader Guillermo Longoria (the title's "tattooed soldier"), takes the lives of Antonio's wife and infant son. Forced to leave the country, Antonio moves to Los Angeles, seeking a better life. What he finds there is not opportunity, but rather homelessness and poverty.
Evicted at the start of the book, Antonio and his roommate live on a hill with others like them. Purely by chance, Antonio sees Guillermo again, and works up the courage to confront him.
The true focus of the story, however, is not Antonio; it is everything around Antonio. It seems that everywhere he goes, he sees nothing but poverty and despair. In Guatemala City, there were army groups created to fight freedom of expression. In San Cristobál, there were funerals for babies at least twice a month. Los Angeles is no different, despite the common perception that it is a land of opportunity. "Perhaps they could move to Mexico. Save enough money to move to Mexico or the United States. A place where they could be safe and their daughter, or son, could be educated.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By G. Blasi on July 22, 1998
Format: Hardcover
The last novel I read at one sitting, a long time ago, was Dreiser's An American Tragedy. This more modern American tragedy may be even better. This story literally pulls the reader along, and ever more deeply into lives seldom acknowledged in American letters. Without being in the least didactic, Tobar also brings us closer to the human face of secret wars abroad and homegrown homelessness. As someone who has spent some time in the neighborhoods Tobar depicts, I was impressed by Tobar's fine eye and ear. No doubt most readers will be most impressed with The Tatooed Soldier as an exceptional tale of the most unexceptional human qualities: love, anguish, guilt, revenge, and -- if we are lucky -- liberation. An extraordinary accomplishment.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By H. B. Franklin on April 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
This beautifully constructed novel has everything:
profoundly moving characters and situations; penetrating
vision into the political economy of the United States and
Latin America; an invaluable history lesson; social realism
of the highest order; psychological and ideological
profundity; a revelation of the true meaning of the so-called
"global village." I am now assigning it in both graduate
and undergraduate courses here at Rutgers University in
Newark.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Andrew J. Miller on May 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is the 2nd book I have read by Mr. Tobar, the first being Barbarian Nurseries. In contrast to Barbarian Nurseries, which I read in about four days, this book took me several weeks even though it was much shorter. And, I would say similar to Patrick Symmes' nonfiction book "The Boys from Dolores", which also took me a long time, this was a worthwhile read.

First, I really appreciate Mr. Tobar's taking me into characters' lives that I would never know how they thought or how their lives were otherwise - the soldier from Guatemala, the University-educated immigrant from Guatemala who has lost everything that mattered for no reason other than fate. I also appreciate the fact that he uses Latino and Latin American characters in fiction. There aren't many authors I know of in English who do this (creating Latino and Latin American characters) using the third-person voice - Sebastian Rotella's book Triple Crossing (2011) does this, as does Tobar in his newest book.

Second - Tobar takes us on a tour of Los Angeles' history and the history of neighborhoods I will never know and would never have thought about.

In any event - this is a great read. I don't think the characters are thin at all - for the most part, the protagonists are pretty believable - Guillermo, Antonio, Elena, many others. If a character seems thin, it's not a main character. Even the chess players I thought were absolutely believable. I feel like I see some of the people Tobar writes about when I walk around many cities.

Bottom line: a great read. I loved it and hope Tobar considers writing more fiction. I will definitely read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S. Cammer on February 16, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a beautifully written book that tackles the profound issues of our times with characters you won't forget long after the book is over. The book starts in Guatemala and covers a period of history that was suppressed in the US for decades. A psychological thriller with close intimate portraits of inner lives that will get under your skin.

Should be on HS curriculum in all the US.

His latest book is excellent as well, a much more incisive look at immigrant issues than the popular The Help.
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