2 out of 4 stars
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Don’t Let Me Die in Disneyland: The 3-D Life of Eddie Loperena by J.A. Marzán is a character-driven fiction novel that details the account of Eddie, a Harvard graduate and most sought-after Nuyorican lawyer, as he continuously finds himself in the middle of a never-ending sociological swamp battling racism, prejudice, marginalization, and oppression of minorities like him.
Eddie Loperena’s immediate family moved to New York when he was just seven years old. Having to make do with his new environment, despite longing to go back to his island paradise, he struggles to find ground and self-identity and experiences ethnic identity problems growing up. Unlike his childhood Puerto Rican friends, Eddie catches a few lucky and some well-deserved breaks that propel him to new heights. He uses this momentum to seek justice and equality for his people and in the process makes a name for himself. This gains him the attention of politicians, who acknowledge his influence on Hispanic voters. Given that Eddie used to write political protest poems, will he embrace the various invitations by politicians to make a difference in the politics he deems unfair? When he receives a call from his long-lost childhood best friend, who has established himself in the drug world, asking for a favor concerning two suitcases containing ‘valuable papers’, what will Eddie do? Eddie is conflicted because he knows that any affiliation with a well-known drug dealer and his activities may ruin his reputation and pull him back to a life he worked hard to escape.
Beaming with profound truths dressed in satire, sarcasm, and a bit of humor, the narrative took me on a thought-provoking and enlightening yet entertaining journey through its pages. The author’s way with words and captivating writing style in vividly imaging places, characters, and events made for quite an evocative read. Additionally, I appreciated that the main character is complemented with a colorful cast of multicultural supporting characters, which gave the sense of an encompassing collective experience for the minority groups.
The characters’ backstories and the ups and downs that life serves them painted the characters development efficiently. The characters felt real, and the lead character is a multidimensional complex character that I found likable, even though I didn’t agree with some of his actions and stances. I especially liked that in his own self-reflections, he realized his own hypocrisy. His inner musings about his divorce, ex-wife, and what went wrong in their relationship I found particularly valuable—there was so much depth that I could see those who’ve gone through a divorce relating to. The insight into their relationship before and after the divorce gave me a strong understanding of their relationship dynamics.
I liked the extent to which the author went in detailing the experience of minorities born in the USA versus those who moved there and the experiences they had when visiting ‘home’ and ‘their people’. I also liked getting to know the characters’ inner perceptions of themselves and their experiences versus the perception others have of who they are.
Though the book has great content and holds a lot of promise, there are a number of glaring hiccups that I could not overlook. I went back and forth between a 2-star rating and a 3-star rating because, despite the number of issues, the content was really good. The first issue is in the switching of characters names and spelling—for example, in chapter five, we meet Troy Oliver who by the third page of the chapter is being referred to as Todd Oliver. Or when it came to Professor Maritza, whose name, at times, was written as Martiza, and her roommate Wanda being referred to as Wendy. As for the second issue, I usually don’t mind a large cast of characters, but the number of characters in this novel and the attention and description most of them received overwhelmed me a little. Third, in location 1995, I noticed a missing sentence before a dialogue tag. Fourth, Eddie would often refer to what I call his alter ego (Eduardo) in the third person. This is where the writing became unclear because there wasn’t always a clear indication of when the shift in personality happened—at first, it just seemed as though the narrative was shifting from first person to third person. Fifth, there were a number of missing punctuation marks, mostly commas.
All things considered, I sadly rate this book 2 out of 4 stars. If I could, I would rate this book 2.5 stars as it is. If it weren’t for the issues stated, I would have happily rated this novel 4 stars. The strong language in this book makes it suitable for a mature audience. Those who enjoy narratives that highlight real experiences through satire will appreciate it. The drama, crime, and mystery elements stitched into the narrative are a bonus.
Don't Let Me Die in Disneyland
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