Picks and Pans Review: The Tattooed Soldier
Whoever said revenge is sweet never encountered Antonio Bernal. For this Guatemalan refugee in Los Angeles, the lust for rough justice becomes a fiery obsession; it allows him to power through the bleak reality of his daily life as he seeks retribution for the murder of his wife and 2-year-old son by a Central American death squad.
First-time novelist Héctor Tobar has concocted a juicy problem: What happens to a seemingly decent man when presented the chance to exact eye-for-an-eye vengeance? For Antonio, the unexpected opportunity comes in an L.A. park when he sees the soldier who wiped out his family.
The story moves deftly from Guatemala—where Antonio is transformed from student to widower and the soldier from peasant to killer—to California, where the soldier finds a job and a girlfriend, and Antonio changes from homeless immigrant to avenger.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times reporter, Tobar occasionally clogs up his tale by piling on too much information. But he succeeds in bringing into focus both the civil turmoil that racks Guatemala and the inner turmoil that can consume people anywhere. (Delphinium, $23)
Bottom Line: Indelibly etched tale about settling a score
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