"Everything turns on jazz."
The layers of meaning alone in this novel are staggering. Just to read it as it is is to be washed in, and reborn from, a river that brings love and life. To read it and contemplate the meanings, the symbols, the depth of its power, is enlightening.
In one place the boys on the hill, in Vietnam near the Laotian border, do some supposing: "'Supongamos, mis amigos!'" (111). The fact is, Alfredo Véa does some serious supposing and I am glad he does. This novel is one of those that changes the game. Véa takes risks, and the risks blow all the usual conceptions of fiction all to hell, leaving a couple of feet and a dog tag, just so you know you're still in the territory, just so you know you haven't slipped away under the current of the river that leads to love and life.
Hills are recurring motifs, and war, and love; these and their counterfeits are all swirling around the psyche of one man with two pasts: Jesse Pasadoble. (Pasado = past; doble = double. Maybe there's a different explanation, but that's the one that spoke to me.)
I could simply say, "It's about a guy who ..." But, that wouldn't, couldn't, do it justice. And it's not about justice; it's about fighting for what you believe in; it's about first finding that in which you can believe. It's about moving on with life, even, and especially, if it isn't exactly what you wanted. We do our best and hope the Fates are with us one last time.