A young man's father, close to death, reveals to his son the true story of his grandfather's death, or at least the truth as he knows it. The mean old gaucho was murdered by some fellow villagers in Garopaba, a sleepy town on the Atlantic now famous for its surfing and fishing. It was almost an execution, vigilante style. Or so the story goes.
It is almost as if his father has given the young man a deathbed challenge. He has no strong ties to home, he is ready for a change, and he loves the seaside and is a great ocean swimmer, so he strikes out for Garopaba, without even being quite sure why. He finds an apartment by the water and builds a simple new life, taking his father's old dog as a companion. He swims in the sea every day, makes a few friends, enters into a relationship, begins to make inquiries. But information doesn't come easily.
A rare neurological condition means that he doesn't recognize the faces of people he's met, leading frequently to awkwardness and occasionally to hostility. And the people who know about his grandfather seem fearful, even haunted. Life becomes complicated in Garopaba until it becomes downright dangerous.
Steeped in a very special atmosphere, both languid and tense, and soaked in the sultry allure of south Brazil, Daniel Galera's masterfully spare and powerful prose unfolds a story of discovery that feels almost archetypal - a display of storytelling sorcery that builds with oceanic force and announces one of Brazil’s greatest young writers to the English-speaking world.
Just prior to his suicide, the protagonist's dad tells a tale of the grandfather who was murdered under mysterious circumstances in a small town on the Brazilian coast. So the protagonist, who is a PE teacher/triathlete with the rare cognitive disorder called prosopagnosia (or, face blindness) with no real ties to his hometown, attends his dad's funeral then departs with his dad's 15-year-old dog for the coastal town of his grandfather's demise.
The author's beautiful prose sings the uncertain atmosphere of the small seaside town in Brazil as our guy (who never meets someone who's not a stranger) endeavors, at least initially, to discover what happened to his grandfather. This superb novel carries us on a moody, sometimes haunting, journey through a unique cast of characters, including 3 girlfriends, a rowdy friend, the strange and hostile town, the ocean and its whales and the dog, as well as into a mountainous region on a walk-about of self-discovery and mirrors of the past and the present, as we discover and contemplate fate v. determinism, the ephemeral nature of love (familial and amorous), loyalty among family and of man's best friend, and the human capability (or not) of true forgiveness.
Daniel Galera reminds me a bit of Márquez in his rhythmic prose and hazy, contemplative themes. He may well be destined for a similar plateau. Surely Senhor Galera is well on his way with a "Blood-Drenched Beard."
Jonathan Davis outdoes himself with this assorted saltwater taffy of characters as he smoothly surfs through the dreamlike ocean winds of this novel.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to Blood-Drenched Beard again? Why?
I could listen to this again in a few years...one of my favorite readers does a great job with a great story that keeps one's attention from beginning to end.
What was one of the most memorable moments of Blood-Drenched Beard?
When the character meets a particular family member...in a nightmarish scene.
What does Jonathan Davis bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
He does Latin and Portuguese voices as good as can be done...by an English speaker...who gives it a strong effort all the way through...
If you could rename Blood-Drenched Beard, what would you call it?
Self-will run riot...
Any additional comments?
What doesn't kill you...can leave you wounded...
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Blood-Drenched Beard was so good that I've already listened to the story more then once.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful