Monday, June 06, 2011


The Ordinary Seaman, Francisco Goldman, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1997, 381 pp

I loved this book! Goldman writes in his own unique way. I can't think of anyone to compare to him. The story of a young man from Nicaragua, who signs up to be an ordinary seaman in New York, captured my imagination and my heart. Esteban had fought in the revolution during which he fell in love with a female soldier, later killed in battle. A big part of the wonder of the novel is Esteban's reminiscences of the war and his lost lover. You get an inside look at what it was like in Nicaragua then which feels very true. Goldman was a reporter there at that time.

When Esteban gets to New York, he slowly discovers that things are beyond screwed up on the ship he is supposed to be working on. Eventually he escapes into the city where he is dangerously without papers, but he meets a manicurist who is from his homeland and looks out for him. They fall in love and, you assume, live happily ever after. A bit improbable maybe but it all makes for a wonderful, gritty love story.

It is the characters, the seamen, the ship owners, the girl and her friends, along with their back stories, that make the novel so rich and entertaining. I had no idea Francisco Goldman, who is acclaimed but not prolific, was such a readable author.

(The Ordinary Seaman is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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