cover image The Country of Toó

The Country of Toó

Rodrigo Rey Rosa, trans. from the Spanish by Stephen Henighan. Biblioasis, $16.95 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-1-77196-514-9

Guatemalan writer Rey Rosa (Human Matter) offers an uneven story of corruption, activism, and the plundering of Indigenous lands by multinational mining companies. Don Emilio Carrión, a middleman for shady transactions between the government and private businesses, enlists his driver Rafael “the Cobra” Soto to embed himself with local activist Polo Yrrarraga, who is devoted “to making life tougher for any profiteer, rancher, or industrialist, government bureaucrat, corrupt banker, or unscrupulous miner.” As Polo’s rabble-rousing threatens the plutocratic order, he risks becoming the latest victim in a spate of assassinations. The Cobra is in the middle, controlled by his unsavory boss but increasingly sympathetic to Polo and his mission. Though the premise intrigues, the tension fizzles midway through and the characters are too hastily drawn to carry the story along as it moves into Toó, a stronghold of Mayan culture in Guatemala’s Western Highlands beset by voracious gold mining companies. The scenes of skullduggery are entertaining, though, and Rey Rosa illuminates how an Indigenous culture is besieged by outsiders. Though the plot loses steam, this leaves readers with plenty to chew on. (July)