July 06, 2006

The Ghosts in the Closet of Latin America

Marta adores her father Don Miguel Maldonado -- loves him, with his highly emotional political diatribes, with his eloquent speeches against the General, with his cluster of male friends who lend an aura of mystery to their home, arriving by nightfall, talking animatedly, ruling her world. The government will change someday, Marta's father tells her, but until then, she, her brother Ricardo and her mother must go. It isn't safe to be a journalist in Latin America in 1955, especially a journalist whose newspaper has been closed by a military junta, but who still manages to print from an underground press. The family withdraws all the rest of their dwindling funds from the bank, and decides to immigrate.

Escape to Costa Rica seems like a prudent idea -- but the escape is cut short. Instead of freedom, Marta and her family endure exile in the mountains -- damp and cold, in a freezing hut made of stone. No doctors, no medicine, no mercy. Marta's father, who has a chronic pulmonary disease, is being slowly worn down into death. And what good are his words now?

Tense, fraught and painful, this is the history of Latin America. It could be any country, that isn't specified by name, but the history of political outrages, the deaths and disappearances are all the same. Winner of the 1989 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, The Honorable Prison brings the images of war-torn countries on the news into harsh and real life.

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