The breakout book from a prizewinning young writer: a breathtaking, suspenseful story of one man’s obsessive search to find the truth of another man’s downfall.
Nelson’s life is not turning out the way he hoped. His girlfriend is sleeping with another man, his brother has left their South American country, leaving Nelson to care for their widowed mother, and his acting career can’t seem to get off the ground. That is, until he lands a starring role in a touring revival of The Idiot President, a legendary play by Nelson’s hero, Henry Nunez, leader of the storied guerrilla theater troupe Diciembre. And that’s when the real trouble begins.
The tour takes Nelson out of the shelter of the city and across a landscape he’s never seen, which still bears the scars of the civil war. With each performance, Nelson grows closer to his fellow actors, becoming hopelessly entangled in their complicated lives, until, during one memorable performance, a long-buried betrayal surfaces to force the troupe into chaos.
Nelson’s fate is slowly revealed through the investigation of the narrator, a young man obsessed with Nelson’s story - and perhaps closer to it than he lets on. In sharp, vivid, and beautiful prose, Alarcón delivers a compulsively readable narrative and a provocative meditation on fate, identity, and the large consequences that can result from even our smallest choices.
©2013 Daniel Alarcon (P)2013 Penguin Audio
"Wise and engaging…a provocative study of the way war culture ensnares both participant and observer, the warping fascination of violence, and the disfiguring consequences of the roles we play in public…[a] layered, gorgeously nuanced work…the ending is a quiet bomb, as satisfying as it is ambiguous." (New York Times Book Review)
"The delicate precision, mounting tension and unfolding tragedy in this masterful book make it difficult to remember the story did not actually take place...Alarcón teaches us, in these pages, that perception and memory are relative. We see what we want to see, we believe what we want to believe. Performance can consume and distort. And time moves differently for all of us." (Chicago Tribune)
"Armando Duran's slight accent adds authenticity to this novel by Peruvian author Alarcon…Duran's natural style of voice acting is a pleasure to hear." (AudioFile)
This melancholy novel focuses on a troop of three actors wandering in the Andean villages of an unnamed South American Country, performing a political play written by one of them years earlier called "The Idiot President." That play had gotten the playwright thrown into a vile, dangerous prison as a terrorist, and now the troop is reviving the play for small mountain audiences. But the novel focuses on Nelson, a lonely young actor who recently broke up with his girlfriend, who somewhat arbitrarily joins the other actors to play the "President's" son, and who suffers the consequences of others' selfishness.
The novel surprises again and again. It is so unpredictable. And some moments are utterly chilling. But it's real charm lies in the mood it evokes, one of fatalism and resignation, one where you long for the characters to do the right thing or at least to overcome their circumstances. But again and again, it seems like no one is in charge and no one bears responsibility.
The narration was very good, too.
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