The Ordinary Seaman
- USD 9.99
- USD 9.99
In this acclaimed novel, the Pulitzer Prize–finalist explores the perils, passions, and adventures of a young Nicaraguan immigrant trapped in Brooklyn.
Named a Best Book of the Year by Newsday, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, the Chicago Tribune, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Publishers Weekly
In the late 1980s, teenage Sandinista soldier and avowed communist Esteban Gaitán leaves Nicaragua to begin a new life in America. He soon arrives on a desolate Brooklyn pier with fourteen other men to form the crew of the ship Urus.
Elias and Mark, the owners of the Urus, hold the men captive, forcing them to work in a vain attempt to make the rotting vessel seaworthy. Without the means to return home, Esteban remains a virtual prisoner, haunted by the loss of the woman he loved during the war. Eventually learning how to sneak off the ship, he makes nocturnal forays into Brooklyn, where he meets a Mexican immigrant named Joaquina, and begins to plot his permanent escape.
Centering his novel around Esteban, but also telling the stories of his fellow landlocked sailors, Francisco Goldman proves once again that he is “a major talent of great style and soul” (The Miami Herald).
“Often very funny . . . Here, a corner of Brooklyn becomes the exotic and foreign experience, and through Esteban’s eyes it is as mysterious and alluring as Tangiers.” —The Dallas Morning News
A voyage of the damned, albeit on a ship that never sails, is the framing concept of this powerful narrative. Fifteen desperate men lured from Central America by the promise of work aboard a freighter find themselves trapped on a rusting, rat- and roach-infested hulk without plumbing, heat or electricity, abandoned at an isolated Brooklyn pier. Placated by the promise that they will eventually be paid, the crew work for six months under horrifying conditions: half starved, filthy, sick and humiliated, they're victims of their own poverty and the chicanery of others. Goldman shapes his story through the tales--often ribald and laced with Spanish vernacular--the characters tell to make their ordeal bearable. He focuses on Esteban Gaitan, at 19 already a haunted shadow, tortured by flashbacks to his experiences as a Sandinista guerrilla and by the death in combat of his young lover. Initially, the rambling tales and discursions impede the narrative's forward movement, but gradually, the stories accumulate and resolve into a searing picture of human vulnerability and courage. When Esteban surreptitiously leaves the ship and prowls the ethnic neighborhoods of Brooklyn in search of food and succor, the story opens out and presents a fascinating picture of a corner of America as seen through unsophisticated eyes. While this is surely a saga of betrayal and exploitation, Goldman maintains a note of cautious optimism about the resourcefulness of men pushed to the brink of despair, and about the determined search for both love and new life in a difficult new land. Goldman won the Sue Kaufman Prize for first fiction for The Long Night of White Chickens. This novel, inspired by an actual incident, should establish him securely on the literary map. Author tour.