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“Under the warp of advertising banners interlaced with each other above the path – which the surreptitious hands of the homeless dismantled at night because they made such good blankets – Managua showed off its own precarious decoration.  Walls covered with layers of slogans, shacks thrown together in disorderly clusters, alleys twisting and turning here and there, loose rubble everywhere….”

cover sky weeps for meIn his second novel published in English by McPherson & Company, Sergio Ramirez, former Vice President of Nicaragua (1985 – 1990) under Daniel Ortega, creates a complex slice of life in that equally complex country.  His earlier novel in English, Divine Punishment, focused on the turmoil in the mid-thirties, leading to the eventual dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza Garcia in 1936.  This novel, The Sky Weeps for Me, a true noir, originally published in 2008, is set in the mid-1990s, an equally difficult time.  Political parties have come and changed and gone; a new generation with new ideas and policies has grown up and become active; and former military officers are often working now in municipal or police roles.  Friends from the revolution are sometimes working toward different goals, and a strong central government backed by a large number of citizens from all social groups has not yet emerged.  As a result, the economy is in tatters, the poor are on their own, and violence is a common theme.

Celebration for Our Lady of Fatima

Celebration for Our Lady of Fatima

The opening chapter, packed with descriptive information, immediately establishes the three main characters and the settings of their lives.  Inspector Dolores Morales of the Drug Investigation Administration has his office on the third floor of the National Police Building, an office where he leaves the window open because the air conditioner expired long ago:  “He didn’t bother to close it when it rained, so its heavy cretonne curtain, gathered tightly at one end, had become a damp, matted, dusty lump.”  Below his window the statue of Our Lady of Fatima is on its pilgrimage around the whole of Nicaragua and a festive march is being played.  In the hallway Morales meets Doña Sofia, who works for the police as an orderly, primarily as a cleaning person.  She is, however, extremely intelligent, and often does her own investigating, not hesitating to make suggestions to her higher-ups.  Bert Dixon, nicknamed “Lord” for his fine manners, is in charge of Drug Investigations for Bluefields, on the Caribbean coast, and he has called Morales early that morning to tell him about the Regina Maris, an abandoned yacht found in Laguna de Perlas, in the forested lowlands north of Bluefields.

One of the casinos in Managua, a larger one than the one where Dona Sofia works.

Pharaoh’s, one of the popular casinos in Managua.

Dixon is reserved, and Morales thrives on drink and women, but the two men have been close friends since the revolution.  Dixon immediately tells Morales that he has sent photos and samples of some presumed bloodstains from the abandoned yacht to him for study.  He also has a witness whom he is holding for further information.  The “witness” is refusing to talk unless the police release his brother from jail for bringing in contraband from Honduras, demanding also that he be allowed to keep the contraband they seized.  A book containing a calling card with the name of a casino is found on the yacht, and the woman thought to have been reading that book is believed to be missing, inspiring Doña Sofia to apply for a job at the advertised casino in hopes of finding out more information. Prospective suspects are discussed by the primary characters, and questions arise as to whether some of these suspects might also be associated with the Cali drug cartel.  The deaths of two additional people take place as the key investigators are still dealing with the mysteries of the abandoned yacht and the nagging question of why someone would abandon a fifty-foot yacht.  A new character, nicknamed “Chuck Norris,” a DEA liaison, provides information about the yacht’s travels in Colombia while also expanding on the character of the missing woman, and the child she left behind.

Author Sergio Ramirez

Author Sergio Ramirez

During all these discussions and the action moving forward, approximately twenty additional officials – their names, nicknames, and positions – are introduced and become part of the investigation.  Fortunately for the reader, these are listed in the Dramatis Personae at the beginning of the novel, since these minor characters are difficult to keep track of without help.  Throughout, many of the narrative’s mysteries are revealed in conversations between characters, keeping the reader at a distance, instead of unfolding before the reader’s eyes.  The author, obviously aware of some of the difficulties that readers may have in keeping track of activities they have been “told about,” instead of  having “lived,” helpfully includes numerous summaries throughout the novel to keep the story lines clear and up to date.  Many characters have odd habits which also make them more memorable:  Morales has two female lovers who discover the existence of each other and become friends, and Doña Sofia proves to be just about the smartest investigator of the whole group.  Her teasing of her bosses is classic humor. “The Nun,” the second-in-command of the National Police, uncompromising and brilliant, stays out of the fray, and runs a tight ship, and these three women serve as shining lights among the dark males surrounding them.

Morales's "Celestial Blue" Lada, featured throughout.

Morales’s “Celestial Blue” Lada, featured throughout.

The final chapters are the most dramatic, descriptive, and ultimately most effective chapters in the book, and few readers will forget the events which take place during a major rainstorm in which “the sky weeps.”  Morales and Dixon take Morales’s famous “celestial blue Lada” car into the countryside where another body has been discovered and identified, and some additional violence takes place. The complex future for the country and the fates of some main characters are left undeveloped, suggesting a possible sequel being planned for the future.  Originally written in 2008 and published in Spanish, this edition, well translated by Leland H. Chambers and publisher Bruce R. McPherson, offers much to think about in the aftermath of a country’s civil war and the participants’ need, somehow, to “hold onto the last shreds of its ideals.”


The real Chuck Norris, mdel for one of the characters here.

The real Chuck Norris, model for one of the characters here.

Photos.  The poster for the Our Lady of Fatima Celebration appears on https://twitter.com

Pharoah’s Casino in Managua is shown here:  https://www.casinosavenue.com

The author’s photo may be found here:  https://www.nuso.org

The blue Lada car from the 1980s is from https://www.alamy.com

The Chuck Norris photo appears on https://www.wikicelebs.com

REVIEW. PHOTOS. Historical, Literary, Social and Political Issues, Nicaragua
Written by: Sergio Ramirez
Published by: McPherson and Company
Date Published: 10/02/2020
Edition: 1st Edition
ISBN: 978-1620540206
Available in: Paperback

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