Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Published: May 1st, 2009 by Curbstone Press
Genre: Erm. I do believe that this is historical fiction, since it's set in the 1980s. Right? Right.
Page Count: 279 in my hardcover copy, but 272 not counting the glossary.
Part of a series? No, it's a standalone.
Summary (from goodreads/the inside dust jacket): Daniel’s papá, Marcelo, used to play soccer, dance the cueca, and drive his kids to school in a beat-up green taxi—all while publishing an underground newspaper that exposed Chile’s military regime.
After papá’s arrest in 1980, Daniel’s family fled to the United States. Now Daniel has a new life, playing guitar in a rock band and dating Courtney, a minister’s daughter. He hopes to become a US citizen as soon as he turns eighteen.
When Daniel’s father is released and rejoins his family, they see what five years of prison and torture have done to him. Marcelo is partially paralyzed, haunted by nightmares, and bitter about being exiled to “Gringolandia.” Daniel worries that Courtney’s scheme to start a bilingual human rights newspaper will rake up papá’s past and drive him further into alcohol abuse and self-destruction. Daniel dreams of a real father-son relationship, but he may have to give up everything simply to save his papá’s life.
My review: There are a few books in the world that everyone should read. Most if not all about them are about how cruel we as human beings can be to each other. This is one of them. It's a harsh, at time unforgiving book, but at the same time, parts of it you can't help but find heartwearming.
Gringolandia switches back and forth between Daniel's point of view, his father's, and his girlfriend Courtney's, but the majority is in Daniel's. After Daniel's, the largest portion is Courtney's. This is a rare time when POV switching was done very well, without being confusing or overbearing. One thing I thought was interesting was that with the POV switching, the font changed, so you could tell that it was different.
Plot: Oh, god, this has to be up in four hours and I procrastinated so badly that I'm only now just typing it and it's midnight, so I really can't. I just can't. Let's just say that the plot flows really well and move on, okay?
Characters: I loved Daniel's voice. Actually, to be truthful, I have a bit of a character-crush on him now. He's smart, cynical at time, he isn't perfect, but something about his voice kept me reading for a good two hours straight. I read all of Gringolandia in one sitting, half blinding myself, because of his voice.
My favorite quote from him is, "After a year or so, I learned enough English to avoid being a complete social and academic zero, and now I speak it with an accent that makes girls go wild." Because oh, how true that is.
That isn't to say that I didn't like Courtney's voice, though. She's a writer, and I could really connect to that. Combined with the intrique of a secret in her past, and other things, too, of course, she was a very interesting character. Plus she was older than Daniel at eighteen to his seventeen!
Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: It wasn't a perfect book. I didn't always see the attraction between Daniel and Courtney, and a couple of times I had to reread something because I missed it the first time. This is one I'd probably recommend rereading for it to really sink in.
PG-13 stuff: The whole book was about very serious subject matter. Surprisingly, there isn't a ton of swearing, which I guess just reinforces that cursing isn't necessary to make an impact. Recommended for older/mature readers, though.
Cover comments: This is in the glossary and acknowledgements, so I thought I'd share it. The pool in the picture was used for water torture at Villa Grimaldi, an infamous torture center in Santiago, Chile that has been converted into a park for peace and human rights. The bird on the cover has significance, too, but you'll have to read the book to find that one out.
Conclusion: This is not an easy subject to read about. It shouldn't be. But this is definitely one you shouldn't miss. Four out of five roses.