The Long Night of White Chickens by Francisco Goldman

I have a real fondness for Latin American novels. From Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s magical realism to Juan Gabriel Vasquez’s rejection of that magical realism and always, always, a deep fondness of Pablo Neruda’s poetry, I’ve read what I can find and enjoyed it all. I very much wanted to enjoy Francisco Goldman’s The Long Night of the White Chickens as well, but it simply wasn’t on the level it could have been. It is, in essence, a murder mystery set in Guatemala, but I believe part of the problem with the book is that it tries to be too much and thus isn’t any one thing at all. The murder mystery itself turns out to be somewhat pedestrian. Guatemalan politics plays a role, and, while the horror and brutality of some of it comes up, it still feels like more of a passing mention than a real commentary on the political climate. There’s sections devoted to the mixing of cultures because the protagonist has an American Jewish father and a Guatemalan mother, but even that doesn’t paint a very clear picture. Any one of these things could have been interesting, could have been a book in and of themselves, but in the end it was a convoluted mishmash. It’s not a bad book, but it is a first book, and that shows. I’ll read more by Francisco Goldman when he writes, because I think it can only get better, and when he finally decides which thing he truly wants to focus on, then his facility with language will shine.

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