cover image Living Like the Saints: A Novel of Nicaragua

Living Like the Saints: A Novel of Nicaragua

Rudolf Steiner, Liston Pope. N.A. Gilbert & Sons, $29.5 (300pp) ISBN 978-0-9638900-1-6

By charting the course of one family and their barrio neighbors as they lead an insurrection against the brutal government of Anastasio Somoza, the author of Redemption paints a dramatic and intimate group portrait of the Nicaraguan people during the Sandinista rebellion of the late 1970s. Almost every major character here fascinates, no matter how outsized his or her heroism or cowardice. There is Alma, the 12-year-old heroine, an inspired and powerful Sandinista leader; Miguel, her half-brother, a political prisoner and poet whose incendiary works fuel the people's battle cries; Padre Velasquez, the priest they trust but who is really a government informer. Pope also brings to life numerous everyday ""saints,"" revealing their poignant private hopes and reflections as they fight for freedom. For all its earnestness and passion, however, the novel has some serious failings. The dialogue is often confusing, with chunks of unidentified speech. Ellipses are used to the point of distraction. Lengthy flashbacks provide little essential background and interrupt the story's momentum. At other times, a paucity of detail strains credibility. It is clear, though, that Pope cares deeply about Nicaraguenos, honoring them by raising their struggle to the level of the heroic. He may not be a graceful stylist, but he is powerful when writing plainly about the dreams, hardships and victories of plain people.(Feb.)