The Line of the Sun

Judith Ortiz Cofer, Author University of Georgia Press $22.95 (291p) ISBN 978-0-8203-1106-7
The vivid opening of this first novel, in which the hero, Guzman, kicks lustily in Mama Cielo's womb, abates somewhat before the first chapter ends. Even the doughty, tyrannical Cielo succumbs to the trials of Puerto Rican life--her older son's death in battle, Guzman's wild passion for the local whore, the late birth of a sickly daughter. After Guzman leaves for New York, the narrative is taken up by his young niece Marisol, daughter of his sister, who has moved to Paterson, N.J. Through Marisol's eyes we understand the clash of conflicting values endured by Puerto Rican emigres. Though exposed to the U.S. mainstream in school, Marisol remains rooted in the island culture stubbornly maintained by her mother and others in the Spanish-speaking tenement community. When Guzman suddenly appears in Paterson, the adoring Marisol finds a spiritual mentor. But the neighbors inexplicably detest Guzman, and other events--a factory strike, a fire, a seance--lead to the family's separation. Unfortunately, the rest of the novel never lives up to the excitement generated by Guzman in the opening pages. But though weakened by clumsy plotting, arbitrary shifts in points of view and sometimes pedestrian prose, prize-winning poet Cofer's novel paints a colorful, revealing portrait of Puerto Rican culture and domestic relationships. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1989
Release date: 06/01/1989
Genre: Fiction
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