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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Reputations: A Novel

I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked up this book at the Expo this year. I was told it was scary, and I noticed it was on the shorter side, so I said, "Why not?" This is Juan Gabriel Vasquez's Reputations.

Javier Mallarino is a famous political caricaturist for the incredibly popular independent paper and Columbia. On his multi-decade anniversary of his tenure, he receives an award for his indispensable work to the nation and his people. He also spends a great deal of time reminiscing on his professional and personal life. On the night of his award, a young woman comes to visit him under the guise of an interview, and her surprise visit opens old wounds, events that happened 20 something years ago when he was newly divorced and the girl was young. These were events that forever changed her life, and the reemergence will forever affect his.

Who have we become even when we forget about the events, willfully or unwittingly, that shaped us? This beautiful novella explore the question of how our past shapes us, and how willing we are to forget about it. The event in question occurred when his daughter and her friend were very young, and the aftermath saw the suicide of a famous politician and be forever implanted distrust in the young woman. And even though it's something that Javier doesn't think about very often, it ultimately brought out some of his most stating work. I found the interactions between Javier and the young woman to be incredibly interesting, particularly in light of Javier's relationship with his ex-wife. It's a complicated web for such a short piece of work, but very interesting.

I realize that this is the work of an international writer, and this they may very well be my American sensibility, but I felt a dissatisfaction at the ending. We never really get a resolution to the young woman's crisis that originally brought her to Javier's doorstep, and with my love of murder and mayhem in mind, I very much wanted the confrontation that needed to happen. Trying to be as vague as possible while still giving you my feelings on the book, because I definitely do not want to spoil the surprise and the intrigue that comes as the gift of reaching the middle of this novella. The ending not withstanding, I found the prose to be beautiful and luxurious. It's a book that I thoroughly enjoye, and I would absolutely recommend for a quiet weekend day on the veranda with a glass of wine.

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