Francisco Goldman, . . Atlantic Monthly, $24 (448pp) ISBN 978-0-87113-915-3

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THE DIVINE HUSBAND Francisco Goldman . Atlantic Monthly , $24 (496p) ISBN 0-87113-915-4

The Guatemalan-American Goldman (The Ordinary Seaman , etc.) has used the often violent modern history of Central America as the backdrop of his two previous novels. His latest plunges back to the 19th century, telling the story of a woman who might have borne an illegitimate child of the great Cuban poet, Jose Martí. First a nun, then a translator for the British ambassador, María de las Nieves Moran is involved with four men, one of whom is Jose Martí. Unfortunately, Martí never transcends his wooden theatricality as "the poet" in Goldman's narrative. Much more interesting are María's three other suitors, especially María's true love, a mysterious boy whom the ambassador has plucked out of obscurity and wants to make the king of the Mosquitoes, an Indian tribe on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua. Certain sequences (a journey to the interior of the republic, the romance between María and the "king" of the Mosquitos, etc.) are beautifully written. The narrative, however, loses his sense of what is central and what is peripheral. The novel suffers from too much clutter and the obsession with Martí, a bothersome McGuffin in an otherwise independently interesting story. Agent, Amanda Urban. (Sept.)

Forecast: Though a respectable entry in the author's growing oeuvre, this doesn't pack the narrative punch of Goldman's first two novels, and as a result may show quieter sales.