The Long Night of White Chickens
This is a novel born of two worlds. Set in Guatemala in the 1980s, during the military regime's tyranny, it is the story of Roger Graetz, raised in a Boston suburb by an aristocratic Guatemalan mother, and his relationship with an orphan sent to live with the family as a maid.
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Goldman, a contributing editor of Harper's, here tells the story of a half-Guatemalan, half-Boston-Jewish young man, Roger Graetz, and his lifelong fascination with and love for the Guatemalan orphan Flor, who lived in his house while she attended high school, later going to Wellesley, then back to Guatemala to run an orphanage. After some few years there, the charismatic and seductively flee-spirited Flor will be murdered and then publicly disgraced, charged as a baby-seller, with having brokered-out her orphans for rich European and American couples. To Roger and his friend Moya, a Harvard-educated Guatemalan journalist (who, unlike Roger, was once Flor's lover for a spell), this post-mortem is not persuasive - and finding Flor, the real truth of her, becomes an almost mythic task. Unhappily, Goldman's manuscript seems not to have had connection with an editor's pencil; and while it's crammed with intimate social information and has going for it the pure yearning of its protagonists, it is a terrible (albeit talented) mess. Characters voice what should have been narrative ("'So, OK, Guatemala, in what we like to think of as its deepest self, is Mayan. We, who aren't actually Indian, what is it we absorb? Not that supposed Indian lack of egocentrism, that community and cosmos first stuff...'"), and the time-frame for Roger and Moya's speculations about Flor is bollixed and unclear. The shame of it is that the book could have been half its length and still quite piquant. But it's not, and it isn't. (Kirkus Reviews)