Reviews, Guest Posts

  VenceremosVenceremos by Howard Waxman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I discovered Venceremos in the Book Section of the Portland Press Herald.  Howard Waxman is from Bath, a neighboring town. Most of all though, I was attracted to the novel because of its subject matter - the late 60's early 70's years when young men had a lot to think about with respect to the turmoil surrounding our involvement in Southeast Asia, a subject that will always be stuck in my craw. The protagonist, Jay Cardinale, who I assume bears at least some resemblance to Waxman is a character whose experiences and decisions couldn't be much farther from my own.
Jay Cardinale is a wounded Vietnam vet at home in the 1970s recovering when he deserts the Army and flees to Vancouver where he gets involved with the antiwar movement. The complications of his life multiply rapidly as he gets involved with militants like the Weathermen as well as the flower children. Soon he finds himself in Cuba cutting cane as a member of the anti-imperialist Venceremos Brigade, and secretly plotting to kill someone in order to earn clemency and a ticket back to America.

Waxman relates the story with a first person POV and a wry, smartass tone. The writing is spare, and the tale moves along smartly with a mountain of twists and turns at the end. The first person POV often seems to get in the way of a richer descriptive rendering of locations in the Cuban countryside and in Havana and other places, as well as of people in general. The few details revealed of Jay's war experience in Vietnam strain credibility. Nevertheless, Venceremos is an entertaining tale sprinkled with humor and tastefully done sex.

Waxman paints Cardinale as a very believable hapless 21 year old over his head in a pot of political intrigue. An interesting revelation is that Jay Cardinale's relations with his comrades in the anti-war movement include the fundamental feelings of kinship found in nearly all small units of the US Army Infantry.  It's a good read.

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