The Great American

Alex Abella, Author Simon & Schuster $23 (445p) ISBN 978-0-684-81427-8
In his second novel, Abella (The Killing of the Saints) displays a fascinating, often unintentionally amusing lack of control over such primary elements as character development, plot structure and style. His protagonist, an AWOL American marine named William Morgan, becomes an unlikely hero of the Cuban Revolution, though he sees more action in the bedroom than on the battlefield. His chief credentials as the legendary Yanqui Commandante are a failed attempt to assassinate Batista and months spent wandering aimlessly through the mountains with a ragged band of soldiers, the tedium broken by occasional firefights and polemical meetings with Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. Ironically, Morgan is a better soldier than lover. He initially falls for Laura, a beautiful revolutionary who is shot and presumably killed in Havana. While in the mountains, he discovers Irma, a missionary who becomes his wife. He eventually betrays her, telling himself that anyone who wants him so badly can't be worth having. Both women exist primarily to express inordinate devotion to their hero. Negotiating the jungle of hyperbole, endless metaphors and adjective traffic jams-not to mention the author's attempt to show Morgan's elementary Spanish by having him speak only in the infinitive (""You want to want to mean"")-will distract most readers from any petty concerns about plot, structure and character. Morgan is a jumble of self-pity and simpleminded notions about romance, politics, psychology and religion. So is the novel. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/29/1999
Release date: 04/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 448 pages - 978-0-7432-0548-1
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