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Cecile Pineda
I had wanted to read this book for many years, after seeing it in my mother's bedroom. It was written by a childhood friend of hers, from her days in New York.

Helio Cara grew up in a world where nothing can be taken for granted. His dad is killed when he is young, he grew up in a shack and lives in a shanty town surrounding Rio de Janeiro. Then, one day, something happens to him which turns the odds even more against him: A man tells him there is a telegram at the post office, his mother is about to die, he runs down the shanty to the post office, he falls and "looses" his face in a fall from a cliff onto rocks below. He is broke, both physically and financially. No one wants to help him; his mother is dead; he looses his job, his girlfriend; they burn his shack; he moves to his mother's shack in the interior; they try to kill him. Yet, he decides he will try to reconstruct his face by himself. He reads about plastic surgery and scrounges up money from his night-time job (watering trees in an orchard) to buy novocaine. Finally, his break: A doctor experimenting on reconstruction techniques decides he can hospitalize him to finish the work he had begun. He goes back to Rio de Janeiro. He sees his old girlfriend and her new companion on the bus. But he is already a man with a new face, outside and inside. She doesn't recognize him. He moves on.

My only critique about this novel is that the decision to rebuild his face, so important to the whole direction of the book, happens in a scant half page. There is no prelude.

But the writing is that of a master: Pineda describes situations, details, with true skill, and this was her first book. Truly remarkable.

Entered on: Friday, August 12th, 2005 at 14:19.
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