cover image The Long Night of White Chickens

The Long Night of White Chickens

Francisco Goldman. Atlantic Monthly Press, $21.95 (450pp) ISBN 978-0-87113-509-4

Set mainly in Guatemala under military tyranny in the 1980s, this accomplished first novel introduces a talented writer with a distinctive voice and an assured prose style. Goldman, who reported on the brutal situation in his homeland for Harper's , here presents a country rife with incongruities: a land of mariachi bands and massacres, BMWs and hovels, streets cracked by earthquakes. His protagonist's wealthy Guatemalan mother abandoned her Jewish husband when Roger Graetz was a year old, taking him from the U.S. to her native country`homeland' above ; three years later, in the '60s, she returned to raise him in a Boston suburb. Roger's obsession with Flor de Mayo Puac, a beautiful Guatemalan orphan who came to live with his family when she was 13, will lead him back to Guatemala after Flor is murdered there in 1983 while directing an orphanage. Determined to discover who killed her, Roger is joined in his inquiry by childhood friend Luis Moya Martinez, an outspoken Guatemalan newspaper columnist. Narrowly avoiding a death squad, Roger and Moya discover that Flor led a secret life, enmeshed in a web of romantic and political entanglements. Goldman's acutely observant eye makes Roger's labyrinthine quest a dark exploration of the chaos of lives held in tyranny's iron grasp. (June)