Following Edgar-winning McDonald's hip and upbeat Flynn and Fletch series, this is a major, wrenching departure. Though he is not yet 21, Rafael is married, has three kids and lives with his extended Native American family next to a dump somewhere in the Southwest; alcoholic since boyhood, he is unemployed and faces no future. To insure, he thinks, a life ``away'' for his wife and kids, Rafael hires on to appear in a snuff film. After listening to the director's detailed grisly explanation of an ``hour of pain'' ending in death, Rafael signs a $30,000 ``contract'' (fake, naturally), gets $200 in cash, buys gifts for his family and returns home for his two last days. Then the real horror, that of daily poverty, takes center stage. No one knows how to cook a turkey; luxury is ``powdered coffee in hot water.'' For these chronically unemployed people the dump, where an armed guard shoots looters, is ``the main source of cash money.'' There is no sanitation and, worst, kids become alcoholics. Readers won't want this part of the narrative to stop because when it does, sweet, loving, desperate Rafael is on the bus to town and his ``job.'' If McDonald meant us to get angry at an unthinking, heartless system--``The man from the government had stopped coming . . . and then the checks from the government had stopped coming and then the food stamps had stopped''--this spare, searing indictment should succeed. It is brilliant and devastating. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 11/04/1991 Release date: 11/01/1991 Genre: Fiction
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