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After Life

Tobias Hecht, Author
Tobias Hecht, Author . Duke Univ. $18.95 (184p) ISBN 978-0-8223-3788-1
Reviewed on: 03/06/2006
Release date: 05/01/2006
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Anthropologist Hecht won a Margaret Mead award for At Home in the Street: Street Children of Northeast Brazil ; his fiction debut, billed as an "ethnographic novel," charts the journey of a young anthropologist to a poor Brazilian city and into the human face of institutionalized poverty. During an earlier field trip to the port city of Recife, Zoë had encountered a child, Beto, who touched her heart with his "timid curiosity" only to disappear into swirling, nomadic urban chaos. Years later, Zoë, now 36 and a survivor of an emergency hysterectomy and her mother's death, returns to Brazil to do fieldwork and is amazed to find Beto is still alive. But "he" is now a fetching female vagabond of 21: "Beto died," she announces calmly. "I am Aparecita now." In a lumbering preface, Hecht reveals that Aparecita is based on a homeless prostitute, Bruna Verissimo, he encountered doing his own trip. While Zoë's dilemma of the anthropologist whose training ties her hands from helping Aparecita is perhaps not as compelling as Hecht believes, his evocation of the horrors and beauties of contemporary Brazil is skillful, and his portrait of a Northern woman adrift and paralyzed in a fecund tropical locale is incisive. (May)

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