cover image Draining the Sea

Draining the Sea

Micheline Aharonian Marcom, . . Riverhead, $26.95 (335pp) ISBN 978-1-59448-973-0

Marcom (Three Apples Fell from Heaven ; The Daydreaming Boy ) looks at the Guatemalan civil war through the eyes of a former American soldier complicit in the killing of civilians in this circuitous novel. As the unnamed narrator, a descendant of Armenian genocide survivors, drives through Los Angeles and goes through his daily routines, he’s awash in memories, mostly about Marta, an Ixil prostitute whom the narrator both loved and possibly killed. In a florid stream of consciousness, the narrator continually revisits several themes, events and images: black flies, Marta’s brother’s murder, Marta’s torture and death among them. Throughout, Marcom weaves references and imagery from religion, mythology and Guatemalan, Armenian and American history, and indicts the powers-that-be for turning a blind eye toward the slaughter of indigenous people. Though some may find that Marcom overly romanticizes Ixil life and is ham-fisted in her critique of American consumerism, the novel’s evocative imagery and explicit prose can move as well as chill. In the end, though, the book is more demanding than enlightening. (Mar.)