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   The Dallas Morning News Entertainment: Books

Review: Looking for light in Miami's dark reaches

Lost soul hunts for half-brother in hopes of finding himself

11:33 AM CST on Saturday, January 22, 2005

By MARIO TARRADELL / The Dallas Morning News

The characters in Carlos Victoria's celebrated novel A Bridge in Darkness travel through a maze of emotional, psychological and physical turmoil before they see even a glimmer of light at the other end.

Theirs is a full-fledged catharsis, one that quickly engulfs the reader, making the book hard to put down. Darkness centers on Cuban exile Natán Velázquez, who lives in Miami and works at a successful export company. His life is empty – no wife, no kids, no family to speak of – until he receives a letter from his dying father in Cuba who tells him he has a half-brother, José. He lives in Miami, Natán's father writes, and you should find him.

The search consumes Natán's life, almost literally. His father doesn't know the whereabouts of José, leaving Natán to obsessively dig for a needle in a seedy, multicultural haystack.

In his quest for José, Natán encounters drug dealers, spiritual soothsayers, a schizophrenic yet brilliant man and a ghost that haunts his every step. Consequently, he questions his own existence. Although financially secure in his South Florida world, Natán remains a foreigner trapped in his turbulent mind. For him, it's not about going back to Cuba. He wouldn't feel comfortable there, either, even though a part of him yearns for the simplicity of his childhood.

The idea of José provides a reconnection with his past, perhaps a chance to bring some of yesterday's heaven into today's hell. It could also help him sort out his feelings for the two women who share his bed: Sandra, the petulant girlfriend he barely cares for, and Teresa, the married neighbor he deeply loves.

A Bridge in Darkness, originally released in 1993 as Puente en la Oscuridad, got the English translation from David Landau. It's the first novel from Mr. Victoria, who now lives in Miami and works as an editor for El Nuevo Herald, to be published in English.

The book examines themes of family, inner stability, love, cultural divides, spirituality and relationships. Mr. Victoria also has a fascination with the dirty underside of every large, metropolitan city. He paints pictures with words, describing surroundings with the clarity of state-of-the-art films. The primary colors canvassing A Bridge in Darkness are dingy grays, blacks, off-whites and blinding reds and oranges.

But the scenery isn't really important, Mr. Victoria seems to write. It's all about what lurks inside, about conquering the demons that rattle the soul. If you win that battle, the outside world takes on a much brighter hue.

E-mail mtarradell@dallasnews.com

A Bridge in Darkness
Carlos Victoria (Pureplay Press, $25)

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