In the Daniel Alarcón novel At Night We Walk in Circles (Riverhead), Nelson is a young man who decides to jolt his life by joining a political theater troupe that tours an unnamed South American country. The experiences changes his life in ways he could not imagined. Or, as the narrator, puts it: “And that is when the trouble began.”
Nelson seems to come to life as he performs in the play with Henry Nuñez, a former political prisoner, and Patalarga, a theater operator. Both men are a generation older than Nelson and hope to revive political activism in the country through their performances.
“What, Henry argued, is a play without an audience? Isn’t a script simply potential energy until that magical moment when it becomes something more? Isn’t alchemy like that only possible when the words are made real, when the actors step out from behind the curtain (or the tarp, in this case) and perform?”
But Nelson is saddened by some big news given by an ex-girlfriend that he still pines for. Then the trio stops in one small town and Henry meets with a family who once played a significant part in his part — and Nelson ends up having to give the greatest performance of his life.
The reader knows Nelson is doomed. The narrator — who has a small connection to Nelson and the story — foreshadows the events that kept me riveted and wanted to know what happened.
Circles is an excellent read thanks to Alarcón’s artful plotting, beautiful writing and astute observations.
Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.