Novels about the immigrant experience abound, but Alarcón offers an unusual spin on the genre: a tale about those left behind, in this case in an unidentified South American country that closely resembles the author’s native Peru. The protagonist, an aspiring actor, never fully recovers from his older brother’s emigration to California, which he interprets not as an act of adventurous entrepreneurship but rather as a cruel abandonment. Alarcón captures the milieu in Peru at the turn of the millennium, when the country was still reeling in the aftermath of a virulent civil war: disoriented lower-middle classes, frustrated artists, overcrowded prisons, a ubiquitous drug trade, and a new culture of commercialism. He artfully captures the dismal melancholy of Lima and the loneliness of the Andean highlands, the numbing winds blowing through desolate villages emptied of young people, who have left to seek better opportunities elsewhere. A suspenseful page-turner, At Night We Walk in Circles also features an anxious love triangle, in which the central female figure, Ixta, is at once irresistible, heartless, careless, and confused: a metaphoric stand-in, perhaps, for Peru itself.
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