Sunday, June 18, 2006

Zone of Secrets

I was a big fan of Adele Griffin's Sons of Liberty, so seeing her name on the spine of Rainy Season was enough to get me to pick it up. Reading that the book was set in the Panama Canal Zone cinched the deal as I was born there - daughter of an Army man - just as Lane and Charlie are in the novel. As in Liberty, the story plays out as the efforts of keeping in a horrible family secret finally unravels - all the while illuminating the pain and fragility of the relationships of everyone in the family - particularly the two siblings. Descriptions of Army life, of the tensions between the Panamanians, Zonians and Military, of the Canal itself, and of living in a place that seems to be a completely separate world were all fascinating. My family left Panama when I was very small, and I have no conscious memories of living there. I was able to take a cruise several years ago and saw some of the area from the deck - but was advised that my safety would be in jeopardy should I venture onto shore to try to see the places from my parents' stories - which made me very sad. Later on, I had to get a new Social Security card, and when I told them my place of birth was the Panama Canal Zone, I was informed that such a place did not exist in the computer system and that I would have to choose another place of birth to add to my file. The sense of loss and loneliness that moment held for me is mirrored in many of Lane's waves of grief in this book. A very moving story of a family and a place steeped in lies and loss.

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