The Geography of Desire

Robert Boswell, Author Knopf Publishing Group $18.95 (309p) ISBN 978-0-394-57690-9
In his haunting first novel, Crooked Hearts , Boswell created an eccentric family locked in claustrophobic love and combat with each other. This time, he constructs a narrative in the style of Garcia Marquez, incorporating both magical realism and political timeliness, but he fails to create equals of the mesmerizing characters who animated his earlier work. Expatriate American Leon Green is the indolent proprietor of the dilapidated Hotel Esperanza in the village of La Boca in an unnamed Latin American country. La Boca may appear to be a tropical paradise, but its history, as related by storyteller and fabulist Ramon Matamoros, contains dark secrets. Leon, who fled California and two wives to discover a life that ``expresses his identity,'' is a charmless figure, self-absorbed and selfish. He is sleeping with two women: Pilar, an ex-university professor and political activist wanted by the police, and emotionally unbalanced teenager Lourdes, and he begins a third liaison when the opportunity occurs. Nevertheless, he sincerely believes that he wants to be ``a good man''; ironically, that is ``often the most dangerous kind of person,'' as events will show. Heavy with exposition and portentous with opaque refer ences, the novel is slow to get underway, and while Ramon's endless stories, which run counterpoint to the main plot line, have a certain charm, the narrative itself hangs fire almost until the end, by which time readers may not be interested in the characters' fates. Although Boswell does not misuse his talents here, he does not display them at their best. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1989
Release date: 09/01/1989
Paperback - 309 pages - 978-0-06-097587-6
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