By Jo Ann Hernandez
LatinaLista — You know all those stories that end with "They lived happily ever after?" Gringolandia begins after the "ever after."
Lyn Miller-Lachmann researched and wrote a heartfelt story about a man named Marcelo, who as a political prisoner in Chile endured a life of torture for many years. The impact his imprisonment had on his family after reuniting with them in the United States, where they had relocated to be safe, is the foundation for this emotionally charged novel.
As with most moves, we find the family's life was changed and their traditional customs adjusted to fit in with their new country. When the father returned, his hold as the traditional head of the household was shaken as was his relationships with his two children, Daniel and Tina, and his wife.
The story is told from the son, Daniel's, point-of-view. He is a teen in high school, who plays a guitar and has an Anglo girlfriend named Courtney. The introduction of Courtney is a bit of a mystery.
Courtney's history with her own family is revealed, and we understand her zeal in wanting to work with Daniel's father. She takes it upon herself to set in motion actions that Daniel is afraid will hurt his father more than what he already has experienced.
The gist of the story is that the father wants to return to Chile and continue fighting the revolution. However, the family is not so sure about the idea. Yet everyone wants to support him.
The father, Marcelo, appears rude or obnoxious, yet all his actions and discontent are integrated with the history of his torture. The author doesn't do a heavy analysis of what reactions are normal for a person recovering from torture. I'm sure she had to do tremendous research on the subject. However, she does an excellent job of showing and not telling us what was going on for the man: the confusion in his intentions combined with the confusions of the rest of the family's expectations.
One finds it difficult to say they enjoyed this book because of the emotional upheaval everyone experiences. Yet Gringolandia is an excellent read to see family dynamics at work, and the consequences of one's belief in an unfair system. Or is it the world?
Get to know this family for they will stay in your memory teasing you with "I wonder what happened to...."