Brian Sousa’s debut is a novel-in-stories about the life and tragedies of three generations of a Portuguese-American family living in Rhode Island. Their lives are punctuated with a series of desperate escapes abroad, beginning with Scott on the beaches of Brazil mourning the death of his young daughter, re-enacting her drowning in several senses of the word. He doesn’t know that it was a similar flight of desperation that brought his grandmother and grandfather to America from Lagos, Portugal many years ago.
The characters may occasionally run, but they cannot hide from their literary fate. Each character’s private pain explored in turn; each timely revelation increases the stakes. Helena emigrates from Lagos with her husband Nuno, and finds her life in America barren and cruel in comparison. Nuno cannot muster any grief for his wife’s death, and instead nurses his obsession with Catarina, the beautiful Portuguese woman who lives in the guest cottage behind his house. Nuno’s son Paulo listens to his teenage son Scott having sex, while his own marriage is rapidly deteriorating around him. Ten years later, Scott’s marriage is no better: he loses his child and abandons his wife. The unwitting observer to all of this family drama is Catarina, who can never seem to escape her fate as the object of every man’s desire. She too leaves her husband, fleeing into the streets of Granada.
These are stories of loss, infidelity, alienation…all the persistent demons of modern suburban life. And for that matter, of suburban literature since the dawn of Cheever. But Almost Gone glimmers when Sousa manages to step outside conventional grief, and twist the knife ever so slightly. The best example of this is a deeply awkward scene where Nuno arrives at the cottage to woo Catarina, after his son Paulo has just tried the same and left, rejected. Nuno falls, and pleads with her from the ground:
May 17th, 2013 / 11:00 am