cover image The Angel of Galilea

The Angel of Galilea

Laura Restrepo. Crown Publishing Group (NY), $20 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-609-60326-0

Like her fellow countryman, painter and sculptor Fernando Botero, Restrepo uses smoothly inflated characters exuding innocence and sensuality to recount a story rooted in the religious and social traditions of her native Colombia. The narrator of this internationally bestselling novel is a cynical Colombian reporter known as La Monita (or, ""Blondie""). When she is assigned to cover the appearance of an angel in Galilea, one of Bogota's poorest neighborhoods, she finds her skepticism challenged. She's seduced first by the peasants' enormous faith and then by the loveliness of the huge angel himself. The plot thickens when a malevolent priest and his gang of youths persecute the angel, but it's softened by prose that's as light as a feather and by wit as sharp as a toot from Gabriel's horn. Although La Monita spares no effort to find out if the angel is real or if other, more earthly explanations --epilepsy or drug abuse mixed with superstition--can explain him, the point of the narrative has more to do with the people's special need for angels. As La Monita says, ""Colombia happens to be the country in the world with the most miracles per square foot... we maintain a direct line with the other worlds, and can only survive as a nation with a daily dose of superstition."" If that is so, then this work is Restrepo's serum for her country and a teaspoon of sugar for the rest of us. (Oct.)