Name of Book: A Hero for the People: Stories of the Brazilian Backlands
Author: Arthur Powers
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Publisher: Press 53
Year it was published: 2013
I'm not sure what lesson I should have learned from it: the stories all take place in Brazil prior to 2000s, and they encompass different areas of Brazil, from country areas to Rio de Janeiro, mostly dealing with victims and people who have little to no voice.
"Set in the vast and sometimes violent landscape of contemporary Brazil, this is a gorgeous collection of stories-wise, hopeful, and forgiving, but clear-eyed in its exploration of the toll taken on the human heart by greed, malice, and the lust for land." -Debra Murphy, Publisher of Idyll's Press, Founder of CatholicFiction.net
1. The Bridge
Setting and Date: Northern Goias, 1987
Written in first person narrative, the man and his friend, Jack Hogan, agree to go to a bishop to talk. On the way there as they were driving over the bridge, it is revealed that Jack has a secret sin he wants to do. On the way back to Northern Goias, the narrator drives the car when he and Jack stop and begin to study the bridge and then something unexpected happens.
2. Back Country People
Setting and Date: Tocantins, 1992
Ze Dias, who owns a truck and lives in a place that lacks cars, is asked to help a boy and his father who's suffering from malaria, to drive them over to Pedro Afonso. While driving to pick up the father, Ze Dias reflects on the way people live as well as issues that they face.
Setting and Date: Massachusetts and Northern Goias, 1989
In first person narrative, the narrator introduces Dave Sorensen who comes home from Brazil. When they meet this time, the conversation turns to ghosts, and Dave tells them a story of Tumbao, a despicable man from a local village that had done hated things, as well as his history and what Tumbao has to face in terms of his life and whether or not he can be forgiven.
Setting and Date: Northern Goias, 1986
Maria, a young lady who has recently gotten married gets complimented by a man from the city named Claudio and then she begins to imagine life with Claudio versus that of her husband Joao as well as reminisce about her past before she got married.
Setting and Date: Western Bahia, 1934-1964
Epitacio dos Santos grants his follower, Domingoes Pereira land that he can use with the condition that he and others always have to acknowledge him as owner of the land, which he does. However, after his death, Leonidas, Mauro and Antenor at first sign the papers without giving the messenger the royal treatment, and then as years pass and the messenger changes, the brothers refuse to sign the paper acknowledging Epitacio dos Santos as the owner, becoming suspicious. Eventually their deeds lead to some deadly consequences.
6. A Hero for the People
Setting and Date: Southern Para, 1988
Brother Michel agrees to become a companion to Gil and arrives to Barreira das Almas until the old man dies and then they can close the center down. As time passes, Brother Michel becomes friendly with the locals as well as learning their stories and so forth. Eventually, Brother Michel helps the locals hold on to their lands against the local politicians.
7. Two Foxes
Setting and Date: Tocantins, 1991
In first person narrative, a man is driving with his friend Adao, and Adao recalls a story about the time he injured the fox and what he decides to do in the end.
8. Four Liters of Wild Honey
Setting and Date: Tocantins, 1991
Joao and Marilda, brother and sister, are selling wild honey when an incident occurs and they profit from it. Although money is meaningless to Joao, he wants for his sister to understand the difficulty in procuring the product.
9. The Moving
Setting and Date: Espirito Santo, 1969
Maria is married to Ze, and they are moving from their fazenda. Maria recalls their life together from the time they met to marriage and to when they moved the first time, along with Maria's younger sister Estrela as well when they moved and what it was like for the family.
Setting and Date: The Brazilian Northeast, c 1970
A man and a boy had some truck troubles, and it would have been okay except the fact they have food in the truck and it is during the famine. While they are trying to fix the truck, the hungry residents come out and begin to beg for food.
Setting and Date: Rio de Janeiro, 1979
Ademar, a man from a wealthy family, marries Gilsa who is poor and is noticed by Nelson Braga who has a very colorful past of making girls pregnant as well as being a king in the slum. Often after their marriage the two would come back to Morro Vermelho, and later on there's a confrontation as well as a choice to be made.
12. Come Into My House and Stay
Setting and Date: Rio de Janeiro, 1976
Rosenthal, a man of Chinese/Jewish origin (Chinese mother and Jewish father,) is in love with Lydia who doesn't reciprocate his emotions back. Lydia married and had a daughter with someone else and after being dumped traveled to Brazil as a priest. While there she lived in slums and took in some children as well as helping others. When her husband passed away, Rosenthal began to communicate with her while she wrote back and eventually the two met in Brazil and have an important realization.
13. The Healer
Setting and Date: The Slums Outside Rio de Janeiro, 1999
In first person narrative, a man visits Pastor Eugenio who disdains Catholic clergy, and Pastor Eugenio makes a shocking confession about when he was a healer and prays over an injured man and how eventually these prayers end up having dangerous consequences.
Setting and Date: Belem, 1984
A young boy in first person narrative recalls his family's history, in particular that of his grandfather being born in Amazonian frontier and forcibly moving into a city. The grandfather often tells his grandson about his own love for the colors.
Setting and Date: Recife, 1993
Maria Amelia, a trader who surpasses her own husband, Jorge, always desires to visit Switzerland. One day she and her husband win a free trip to Switzerland, but Maria Amelia becomes uncertain of whether or not to take the chance and see the land of dreams for herself.
Setting and Date: Rio de Janeiro, 1968/Paris 1973
Carla Alves, a twenty three year old young woman arrives from Rio de Janeiro to Paris and reflects on what brought her to Paris as a graduate student and a survivor of what has happened. While in Paris, she meets up with Jaime who helps her put her past in perspective, as well as deal with it.
I've read plenty of short story collections, and I have to admit that this is seriously the best collection I've read. I loved learning even more about Brazil, more beyond the party scene so to speak and beyond episode of the Simpsons. The stories are good and well-written and they all reveal fascinating aspects of people in Brazil. Why four stars then? I have to admit that in some stories I had trouble understanding the moral or what I should have learned from reading it.
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4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)