From Publishers Weekly
Basing her transcendent novel on contemporary events in her native Colombia, Restrepo (The Angel of Galilea) tells a riveting tale of the vicious war between two families made wealthy by crime and clandestine business. Nando Barrag n begins his career selling Marlboros on the black market. In a surge of drunken rage, he impulsively kills his beloved cousin, Adriano Monsalve, over the attentions of a widow, and immediately "knows he has entered the fathomless domain of fate." Although he desires penance, he is informed in a dream that his rash act means a terrible new existence for both families: the Monsalves and the Barrag ns are bound to slaughter each other until all the males on one side are dead. Each act of vengeance is ritually committed on a zeta, or anniversary, of a family death, and the violence continues for two decades until only four Barrag n males are left. Battle-hardened Nando heads the Barrag ns, and Adriano's nouveau-riche younger brother, Mani, married to beautiful Alina, leads the Monsalves. Then Alina gets pregnant and issues an ultimatum: one more murder and she will leave Mani. Unfortunately, that murder is already in motion. Mani's efforts to launder his money and lifestyle and win back his wife, and the escalation of the war past the bounds of prophecy and tradition until it requires drug money and hired assassins, are the forces that drive the novel toward its tragic end. Restrepo's singular narrative style, in which her present-tense exposition is frequently interrupted by conversations between neighborhood onlookers, who debate the particulars of the story being told and present their own versions, retains echoes of magic realism, but has a freshness that is all its own. Brutal, intense and beautifully written, the novel delves deep into family hierarchies, the heady glamour and destructive power of sudden wealth and the play between fact and legend. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
This family epic set in contemporary Colombia holds all the indulgent pleasures of the tragic, steamy telenovellas watched by the novel's characters. The Monsalves and the Barragans are related criminal families launched by a single murder into a bloody war of revenge against each other. Most of the characters are easily identifiable types--the golden child, the brute, the secretly sexy maiden aunt, the beauty queen--which the author remains faithful to in her description; the attractive characters remain gods and goddesses, the unattractive are portraits of hideous brutality. As each family builds up its shady, prosperous businesses, its members continue cyclical, ritualistic assassinations of the opposite clan, a culture of violence that ultimately destroys the book's central love story. Despite all the blood spilled and tortures endured, this is old-fashioned brutality, based on traditions and loyalty, until the story's end, when cocaine becomes the family business and enemies become global. In narration that includes commentary by unseen, omniscient town gossips, Restrepo combines prose swollen with sensory description and magical exaggeration with a journalistic precision. Gillian Engberg