Friday, December 05, 2008

Useful Fools by Schmidt

This is an historical novel based on the political terrorism that started in Peru in 1980 and though mostly over there is still unrest and violence in Peru. The Senderista or Shining Path were revolutionaries that attacked sites where wealthy Peruvians were trying to help less fortunate residents. Rosa's father, a wealthy doctor started a clinic for poor pregnant women in an poverty stricken area of Lima. Magda a poor pregnant woman, Alonso's mother volunteered there as a nurse. Rosa and Alonso also helped out when they could though school limited what these teens could do. They fell in love there. On the day the Senderista attacked the clinic, Rosa froze under gunfire and Magda died saving her life. After, Alonso angry at his loss and punished by his father fro not being more responsible, seeks out his long time friend Rodolfo. Rodolfo has already decided to join the Senderista and takes Alonso with. Its a twisted logic that causes them to consider joining the revolutionary group that is more bent on violence and killing anyone that gets in their way, even people doing good works in impoverished areas. Readers will come to understand this. Alonso, does also and escapes even as Rosa goes looking for him at his home in the poor area of Lima and finds Alonso's younger siblings alone and terrified and Alonso's father arrested by the police because of Alonso's actions with the Senderista. This story has a happy ending which perhaps is unrealistic. In addition, somehow the true pointless horror of the violence and killing gets bogged down in the politics and dry telling. Frances Temple's telling of the violence in Haiti is much more riveting. The Senderista call wealthy people helping poor people useful fools. In the end these terrorists killed 70,000 Peruvians. Of their victims 75% were poor native people they supposedly were trying to help. The government and the wealthy except for useful fools went largely untouched. This according to the author's end note. This is a story worth telling, worth knowing about. If only it were a more lively telling. JDW 12/5

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