1.21.2008

Reading Life 21


Terry Trueman's done it again, but in the unlikeliest of ways: absent in Hurricane is the gritty darkness of his other books. In his latest novel (originally published in the UK back in 2003), Trueman once more introduces us to strong characters and an uplifting tale that is set in Honduras right smack dab in the middle of Hurricane Mitch (1998), which obliterates Jose's small, rural town. Jose is forced into the position of "man of the house," as his father and older brother, Victor (along with their sister) have left on business right before the storm strikes. When the boy steps out of his home on the morning after to survey the storm's damage, he sees and hears complete and utter destruction. A mudslide and category 5 winds have torn apart his pueblo, leaving standing only his family's house and a lean-to on the town's edge belonging to a family recently moved in. Jose considers the several meanings of pueblo: the nation (as in the people), the town proper (that is, the place called thus and such), and the folks themselves (who make up the town and the nation, much more close-knit, in one anothers' lives daily, those in whom we place our trust); Jose concludes that a hurricane, even one that kills off a huge portion of the townspeople cannot destroy the heart of the people, el pueblo. Some, undoubtedly, will argue that the story suffers from a Hollywood ending, that so much suffering concentrated on such a small area must affect even Jose's family directly, that at least one member of his family has to die as a result of the hurricane. (You'll be happy to know that even their dog survives.) Well, I'm glad for a happy ending like this; we've gotten, recently, inudated with just the opposite kinds of stories with dark and dreary endings, nothing uplifting, nothing to look forward to, it seems (realism, some will say, though I'd argue that even these more realistic tales are never the less made-up tales which serve as escapism; it is all fiction). I say it's time to make room for these happy ending sorts of stories; because in real life, we experience joy in addition to sadness.

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