The Marks of Birth

Pablo Medina, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $22 (275p) ISBN 978-0-374-20296-5
In this promising first novel by Havana-born poet and essayist Medina ( Exiled Memories ), Anton Garcia-Turner's birthmark--``roughly the shape of Iceland in the concave sea of his back''--seems to be the seat of all his metaphysical troubles. Anton is the much-celebrated scion of a well-to-do Latin American family, which is forced to flee its island homeland when tyrant Nicolas Campion comes to power. After an adolescence in a dangerous Bronx neighborhood, Anton winds up disastrously married and frustrated in suburban New Jersey. He rallies himself to one last quixotic act after the death of his beloved grandmother, Felicia. Medina is coy about the novel's setting, but there can be no doubt that Havana is the starting spot of Anton's odyssey or that Campion is Castro. Though Medina is a skilled writer with an assured and steady voice, he bites off more here than he can assimilate. Exposing the secrets of a life in self-imposed exile is his intent, but the novel's attention jumps from character to character, all of whom remain, in the end, enigmatic. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
Paperback - 276 pages - 978-0-89255-287-0
Hardcover - 978-0-517-16541-6
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