In 1973, with the help of the CIA, a democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende, was overthrown and a military junta led by Augusto Pinochet took his place. The junta was responsible for violent repression of dissent. Many people were tortured. Many people were killed. Many people simply disappeared.
In the book, Daniel’s father, Marcelo, was an active dissenter. The book starts in 1980 when the military comes to Daniel’s house in the middle of the night, brutally beats and then arrests his father.
Daniel’s mother and his younger sister leave Chile to live in Wisconsin. In 1986, after six years of torture, Marcelo is released from prison and ordered to leave Chile and never return. Daniel and his mother pick Marcelo up from the airport in Chicago. He is nothing like the man Daniel remembers as his father.
Daniel has become comfortable with the United States. He wants to become a US citizen. Marcelo calls it “Gringolandia.” Marcelo suffers from terrible headaches, from nightmares, from strong reactions when he is touched. He wants to write again, as he wrote before he went to prison. Daniel’s girlfriend is able to help Marcelo publicize the plight of Chileans.
This is a book about the horrors the Chilean government, or any government, can commit when it is not beholden to an electorate. It’s a book about the results of those horrors as demonstrated by Marcelo and the affect Marcelo has on his family.
It’s also a book about a young man and his father. Daniel wants his father to be the way he was when Daniel was young. Marcelo wants Daniel to be a Chilean.
The book is told in three voices, Daniel, Marcelo and Daniels girlfriend Courtney. Miller-Lachmann has solid control over all three voices. The pace of the story is constant. There’s an author’s note at the beginning which talks about the history of Chile in the 70s and 80s. I find it very helpful for the authors note appears at the beginning of the book rather than at the end.
This is an important story. It’s important that we vote in this country, that we keep our democracy so that nothing like what happened in Chile will ever happen here.
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