Novelist Oscar Casares has done well for himself in his new book Amigoland, a light, entertaining read that manages to tackle some heavy issues.
Amigoland is the story of the brothers Rosales, two men separated by their age and stubbornness. Don Fidencio, the elder of the two, spends his days in a nursing home, practicing strict insubordination toward the nurses and constantly dreaming of ways to escape. Don Celestino, a recently retired barber, lives alone. But he has recently been delighting in the company of his cleaning woman Socorro, who is twenty years his junior. The brothers’ parallel struggles with age meet when Socorro insists on meeting Don Fidencio, thus enacting an overdue, but difficult reunion that alters the lives of all three dramatically.
The novel is organized chronologically, but shifts perspective constantly between the three characters. This set-up lends a certain flexibility to the novel, as each character contributes a different dynamic to the story. It will occasionally elicit some chuckles, for instance, when told from the perspective of the grumpy Don Fidencio, who tends to create offensive nicknames for his nursing home companions. Socorro’s story, meanwhile, is often heartbreaking and contemplative in her struggle for independence in a male-dominated family. Each chapter is a new experience.
Casares’s piece calls into question the treatment of the elderly, and how it relates to older family roles that are increasingly less obligatory by the day. It also, however, stresses the infallibility of a dedicated family, and how sometimes a common heritage is a strong adhesive for separated lives. Readers must remember that it is, above all, a fictional piece. At times, the plot can approach far-fetched, and the ending is a bit too clean. But Amigoland will ultimately keep you interested, and several scenes will stick on the brain long after the story has concluded.