a novel by Julie Locascio
-- "Tricks" is available in paperback!
-- Also on sale as a Kindle e-book:
A troubled young American woman loses herself in her idealistic quest to "save the world". Traveling first to Mexico and then Brazil, the narrator tells her story in the present tense--constantly uncertain of what is coming next. The novel deals with poverty, ecology, gender issues, politics, indigenous peoples, international issues, human relationships, culture clash, disillusionment, spiritual turmoil, doubt, and personal breakdown. Occasional flashbacks and communications with loved ones in the United States provide parallel stories that finally come together during the climax of the novel.
The symbolic story arc begins with the narrator's self-awareness painfully awakened during a dolphin show in Mexico, and is developed in Brazil with the story of wild dolphins living in the Amazon River. Is freedom only found in brief leaps out of the waters of our existence, and rapidly followed by falling even further into the depths? Why leap at all? The metaphor becomes reality as the novel climaxes in the Amazon jungle--where life and death are on the line, and the narrator finally learns the truth about her own limitations and why the one she loves set her free because of his own.
Tricks in Captivity was written in the mid-1990s while the author was living and working in Mexico and Brazil. Radically different from typical travel novels, Tricks is an emotionally raw and provocative examination of why and how the loftiest aspirations can lead to the lowliest results, and what the confines of existence really are. Though richly textured with timeless themes, the novel serves as a riveting snapshot of one generation's angst about America's role in the Third World (including Iraq)--and in some ways eerily foreshadowed how that role played out a scant decade later.
Tricks in Captivity in some sense is a modern and slightly feminist version of Voltaire's Candide, in a writing style somewhat akin to Walker Percy's. The author's disillusioned voice is strongly influenced by Ernest Hemingway, Leo Tolstoy (War and Peace), and the master English social critics--Charles Dickens, E.M. Forster, and Thomas Hardy. More modern influences include a wealth of writings from Latin America and indigenous America. Readers who like provocative intercultural stories like The Kite Runner and The Constant Gardener will like Tricks in Captivity.