Tuesday, February 11, 2014

At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcon

At Night We Walk in Circles is a book for the patient reader. Its exposition slowly sets the stage for the meeting of the two main characters: Henry the playwright and Nelson the actor. Nearly fifteen years earlier, during a war of rebellion in an unnamed South American country, Henry had been imprisoned for writing a seditious play, “The Idiot President.” Now that politics and rebellion are no longer an issue, he has planned a revival of the play with a three-man touring group.  Nelson, a rather na├»ve and directionless young man, joins the cast, leaving behind his widowed mother and estranged girlfriend, Ixta.  As the troupe travels inland, performing in small mountain villages, Henry tells Nelson more about his imprisonment. In the last village, Nelson becomes involved with the elderly mother of a ruthless drug dealer, who believes Nelson is her long-lost youngest son. When he begins to regret having ended his relationship with Ixta, he suddenly bolts, deserting the mother, heading back to the city and angering the drug dealer who sends his thugs after Nelson to exact revenge. Back in the city, Nelson is a changed man, more aggressive and more resolved to revive his relationship with Ixta, who is pregnant and living with another man. Eventually, a tragedy occurs and although a mysterious narrator has been hinting at a bad outcome for Nelson throughout the book, the reader is taken by surprise by the actual event.