James McCreath | Renaldo (Amazon Digital)

Renaldo 75I would not say Renaldo is a real page turner, but if you like to read over a span of time and not try to finish within a couple days, this is a good option.

 

 

Renaldo 500

 

 

Set in 1978 Argentina, Renaldo tells the stories of the DeSeta brothers’ differing life journeys. Lonfranco, the elder brother, is seduced into becoming a Montonero terrorist after meeting the elusive Celeste. Renaldo, the younger brother, works to achieve a spot on Argentina’s national soccer team.

Both stories told in this novel are quite compelling. The title is named after Renaldo, so one can infer that his is the dominant story and takes up the greater number of pages, and I feel readers with either some knowledge of soccer or a general affinity for sports will find more enjoyment in Renaldo’s journey and will be able to better relate to him. Personally, I found Lonfranco’s story more interesting because it involves the world of secrecy and espionage, which of course also involved a lot of violence, but it was very well written and the action kept me reading.

While reading I did stop a few times and question why the two stories were being told. There were many moments when I did not see parallels between the brothers’ journeys and did not understand why McCreath elected to put them together rather than write two separate books. However, McCreath skillfully ties Renaldo and Lonfranco’s journeys together in the end, in a riveting and unexpected manner.

While their courses seem to be lifetimes apart, the DeSeta brothers’ relationships with influential women provide a strong similarity between them. Lonfranco’s love interest is Celeste, who, along with her brothers, is a deeply involved Montonero terrorist. Renaldo’s love interest is Symca, a famous pop star. These women both hold a great amount of power, prestige, and influence in their respective fields, and they wield a seemingly magical control over the DeSeta brothers. This aspect of the novel offers an interesting perspective on romantic relationships, and how love clouds judgment. I appreciate McCreath’s inclusion of these female characters who, while holding great power, also become vulnerable and don’t completely think through their actions once romantic relationships become a factor.

McCreath even goes beyond the romantic relationships and explores familial and working ties, as well. He goes in-depth with the characters and shows how they react to knowing people with varying degrees of power.

Keeping relationships central to the story helps Renaldo transcend time. I was constantly forgetting the book is set in 1978 unless something specific to that time period, such as politics, was mentioned. Upon finishing the novel, I’ve reflected on things that have changed and stayed the same between now and the past.

I recommend Renaldo to sports and action fans, and also those interested in changing relationship dynamics. I would not say Renaldo is a real page turner—some of the writing feels dry and, at times, boring—but if you like to read over a span of time and not try to finish within a couple days, this is a good option. | Samantha LaBat

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