The Storm

Tomás González--dubbed "the best-kept secret of Colombian literature"--arrived on the English-language scene with In the Beginning Was the Sea. His follow-up is The Storm, a slim, lyrical novel about the tensions tearing apart a Colombian family. The patriarch of the family, generally referred to as "the father," rules his hotel by the seaside with an iron fist, constantly berating his twin sons, Mario and Javier. His wife, Nora, has been driven to schizophrenia by his blatant affairs and other cruelties. She spends much of the novel conversing with people only she can see. González likewise provides the reader with a multiplicity of voices as he bounces quickly among the perspectives of many of the tourists. They come to form a kind of Greek chorus, commenting on the events of the novel and giving the lie to the main characters' conceptions of themselves.

The novel begins with the father, Mario and Javier heading out for an extended fishing session to feed the hungry tourists. They ignore warnings about an approaching storm, more preoccupied with their resentment and hatred toward each other than with physical danger. As tensions bubble over into something uglier, González expertly deconstructs each character's hypocrisies and self-delusions. The father, for example, fancies himself a canny businessman when he's actually a skinflint: his hotel complex consists of a series of poorly maintained bungalows and it's revealed that he saves money by redirecting sewage into the water. The Storm is a complex psychological portrait of a family on the verge of self-made disaster. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.

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