by Ed Siegle
In this original and gripping story about a man searching for his father, debut novelist Ed Siegle takes the reader on a journey across two continents and four decades – It’s certainly an entertaining and absorbing trip.
The man in question is Joel Burns, a Brighton dentist who has since childhood felt an ache for the country of Brazil and the father (Gilberto) he left behind there (missing presumed dead) when he and his mother left the country during a period of political unrest in the late 1960s. The action begins in the present day when Joel, fresh from splitting up with a long-term girlfriend, believes that he has spied his long-lost father on a TV news clip. What follows is Joel’s quest to find Gilberto with a literal voyage to Brazil, as well as a figurative one of self-discovery…
Siegle does location extremely well. The reader stands shoulder to shoulder with Joel as he pounds the streets of Rio de Janeiro in the shadow of the statue of Jesus Christ. The picture painted of Joel’s home town in Brighton is no less evocative. More impressive still is the author’s creation of a stellar cast of truly memorable characters who had this reader crying and laughing aloud; it’s a rare skill to evoke such a strong emotional response from mere words on a printed page, but Siegle carries it off beautifully. Particularly well drawn is the depiction of Joel’s mother, Jackie. Poor, morally questionable, downtrodden Jackie, whose attempts to revivify her love life in the shadow of ex-lover Gilberto leave you rooting for her till the end. Equally unforgettable is Nelson, a musical drifter who, though from dubious motives, sets out to help Joel find his father, guided by the spirits of Jesus, Yemanjà and his late aunt Zila (and her hilarious eleven commandments.)
So plot, character and setting are all done to a T, but what I loved best about this book is its extraordinary ability to touches on all the senses: We can taste the tangy sea of Brighton in winter, smell the zingy lime of the caipirinhas which are generously poured throughout the story, while the samba beats of Brazil and the squawking cries of Brighton’s myriad seagulls resound in the ears days after putting the book down. That the book stays with you for days after reading is just one of many reasons why it comes highly recommended. It’s up to you to read it and discover the many others for yourself.
Nina de la Mer
Published by Myriad Editions – 288pp
Ed Siegle would be delighted to visit your bookgroup, down a few caipirinhas and talk about his work, Brighton, Brazil and, of course, his book INVISIBLES. Email Ed at email@example.com