This collection of fictional stories tells the tale of the wealthy Buenaventura family and their emigration from a South American country to an island off of Manhattan. The volume is illustrated with hand drawings, annotated with footnotes and told with a flair for magical realism, resulting in an original and multi-faceted story.
The book begins with an explanation of what is going on in patriarch Doroteo’s life on the day he first flies – not by mechanical means but under his own power. The connected tales that follow weave in family, history and the politics that force his decision to flee to Dawn’s Island, formerly the site of an insane asylum, which he buys for the family compound.
Despite the seemingly heavy topic, this is largely a light, colorful tale, rich in South American culture and imbued with a strong sense of family, particularly the relationship between Doroteo and his granddaughter Nina. “Nina and Doroteo fly together …,” writes Rodman. “Their flights are not always as successful as their vocabulary games. Nina likes to swerve with the winds that serve her best for all sorts of daredevil pirouettes. Doroteo is more the helicopter type, chugging laboriously along …”
The stories circle back over various events, picking up threads and adding details as they progress. Often a truly enjoyable read, this is not, however, for the impatient person, as Rodman’s style depends greatly on repetition. For example, “Realizing how far apart he had grown … filled him with horror. It filled him with horror because …” While the technique can work in small doses, it can at times feel overdone and frustrating.
That aside, this is a well-imagined and satisfying read that will especially appeal to readers who want to lose themselves in another world.
Also available in hardcover.