Book list Imprisoned and brutally tortured for six years by the Pinochet military dictatorship in Chile, Daniel Aguilar's activist father, Marcelo, is finally released in 1986 and allowed to join his refugee family in Madison, Wisconsin. Papa is crippled, angry, and haunted by thoughts of those he left behind. The story is told in alternating first-person, present-tense narratives by Daniel, 17, and his activist girlfriend, Courtney, who writes letters to Pinochet urging Marcelo's release. Starting with the first chapter, the descriptions of torture are detailed. But this novel covers crucial historical events that have been too long ignored. Most compelling are the teens' nonreverential narratives about living with a survivor. Half-paralyzed, Papa stinks of vomit, stale alcohol, and cigarettes. He rages at his wife, and the damage spreads to Daniel and Courtney. The strength of this novel is the honesty of Daniel's mixed feelings about my father, the freedom fighter. --Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2009 Booklist
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School Library Journal Gr 9 Up-This impressive novel opens in 1980 in Santiago, Chile, as young Daniel witnesses the violent arrest of his activist father by Pinochet's secret police. Five years later, Marcelo is released from prison and reunited with his wife and children in Madison, WI (derisively called "Gringolandia''). Years of torture have taken a terrible physical and emotional toll on him. Unable to reconnect with his family, he begins plotting his return to Chile even as he succumbs to alcoholism. Daniel, now 17, struggles to balance his volatile home situation with high school; his girlfriend, Courtney; and hopes of U.S. citizenship. When Courtney begins translating Marcelo's articles into English, her near-obsessive involvement strains her relationship with Daniel. Marcelo eventually returns to Santiago, and the young couple's decision to accompany him has a lasting impact on them both. Miller-Lachmann skillfully incorporates elements of family drama, teen romance, and political thriller into this story of a father and son reknitting themselves into each other's lives. "La Gringa," a section told from Courtney's point of view, illuminates her character without sidetracking the pacing. A prefatory author's note provides valuable historical context, and the glossary of Spanish and Chilean phrases will be useful for readers. This title may need to be booktalked, but it's well worth it. From the stark cover image of an empty pool used to torture victims to the intensely poignant essay that concludes the novel, this is a rare reading experience that both touches the heart and opens the mind.-Amy Pickett, Ridley High School, Folsom, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.