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Balcarce, Alberto.

Oakville (Ont.), Mosaic Press, c1986. 182pp, paper, ISBN 0-88962-343-0 (cloth) $19.95, 0-88962-342-2 (paper) $9.95.CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by E. Robson

Volume 15 Number 2
1987 March

One morning, Roberto left his home in Argentina to buy milk for the baby and was kidnapped. He was tortured for long periods and then put on a plane to Paraguay. On the flight, he recalls his return to Argentina after ten years in the United States and his reluctant involvement in the political movements in Argentina. He becomes involved in a plot to kidnap two Mormons to attract the attention of the United States in the fight for human rights. After many more pages of description of tortures, Roberto escapes to Brazil with the help of the American Consul and, after a further kidnapping, ends up in Toronto, with no explanation of how he became a United Nations refugee walking Yonge Street.

Although the story is based on a true case, and the author was born in Argentina, educated in the United States, and is now living in Toronto, just as Roberto in the story, there is no claim for this book as a biography. From the title to the last word the story is depressing, slow, and requires effort to keep reading. Even the references to Roberto's sexual activities are poor reading and fail to give relief from the hopelessness of the situation. Unless the reader is previously aware of the political situations between 1976 and 1983 in South America, the background of the story is vague. Too many questions are left unanswered and no solutions to any of the problems are suggested. All the characters introduced throughout the novel are simply left behind with no further explanation of their role or future.

Although depressing, the last chapter is a revealing look at a cold friendless Toronto through the eyes of a poor, homesick refugee. Alberto Balcarce is now writing a second novel, and if he continues on the same theme of mental and physical survival under extreme cruelty, it is hoped that he can raise the awareness of his readers to the injustices of the world. This novel could be useful in a senior world issues study of South America, but otherwise it is not recommended for general school readership.

E. Robson, Winston Churchill C.I., Scarborough, Ont.
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