Dr. Brinkley’s Tower by Robert Hough
This was a good book—an interesting story and well written too. I was a little sorry that three-quarters the way through I peeked in the back and found out that there really was a “Dr.” Brinkley who built a radio-tower in a cross-border town in Mexico to advertise his ‘snake-oil’ products. This knowledge did influence my reading of this tale—in a more negative way (not that I liked Dr. Brinkley much, although at first he did seem to bring some prosperity to the poor Mexican border town).
The writer did make this reader care about some of the people and their circumstances, and so the character sketches were well done, if a little sparse compared to other books that key into just one person. Some universal themes are portrayed—innocence, young love, greed, the con-man and people’s desire to believe in things that are better than reality. We all have a need for hope, and the question is to what extent to do we allow ourselves to be duped?
The use of language is interesting: the authors chooses occasionally to use descriptive words that are, perhaps, above the level of general usage; for example, on page 103, Violetta thinks “The Idea that Francisco might have risked his life for her caused her to feel slightly vertiginous, as if she’d contracted a mild flu”. Vertiginous coming from vertigo, and in this context meaning dizzy or light-headed.
The author also chooses to intersperse some Spanish words in the story, ‘sí’ being an easy yes that most people would understand, as well as ‘hola’ for hello; to slightly more complex words. I am thinking ‘miji’ might mean son, and ‘pobrecito’ might mean proprietor (as the reference is to the cantina owner by his wife). These Spanish words seemed to fit into the story at appropriate places, and were mostly comprehensible in the context, and not enough to cause me to seek out a Spanish-English dictionary…but nevertheless I did feel occasionally as though the author was taking it upon himself to educate me about Mexico and Mexican culture and people (the latter of which was a little annoying).
Overall, I would say that I do recommend this author and this book to WordFest. I would like to read something else by this author, and will look for his books again.
Reviewed by Kathy Lewis