Exuberant and colorful, Latin Moon in Manhattan paints a vivid portrait of New York City as the land of El Dorado for today's Latino immigrants. From Little Columbia in Queens to the street life of Times Square, this brilliant novel is crowded with an extraordinary cast of characters: Hot Sauce, a midget hooker; Simon Bolivar, a parrot who croons Julio Iglesias songs; the Urrutias, a family rich from cocaine smuggling; Santiago Martinez, a loner and would-be poet whose ancient cat, Mr. O'Donnell, is slowly dying of an enlarged heart.
Exploding with a profusion of plots and sub-plots involving drug smuggling, romance, and the literacy politics of Queens, Latin Moon in Manhattan is a rich and charming work.
Like Manrique, the narrator and protagonist of this debut novel is a Colombian poet transplanted to New York City. Santiago Martinez has come from Bogota 18 years ago, ``from one cocaine capital to another.'' Santiago struggles--with his overprotective mother, who refuses to accept that he is gay; with his nephew, Gene, who wants to be Marlon Brando but works as a messenger for coke dealers; with his cat, Mr. O'Donnell, who is dying; and, fundamentally, with his epic poem on the life of Christopher Columbus. From such highly colored material Manrique fashions this often hilarous and sometimes touching entertainment around the theme of letting go of inhibitions and preconceptions. He casts a knowing eye on the habitu al homesickness of emigres, recording their efforts to recreate their homelands. wherever they settle. The result is a surprisingly sweet work, appealing in its warmth and elegant in its language. (Feb.)