Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf: A Boy From the Streets

By Lynn Willoughby

A Boy From the Streets ~ Maria Gibbs

Twin boys born in Rio are abandoned at birth.  Less than a week later, Carolina and Fernando adopt one, and move to England where Carolina is in and out of mental hospitals for the next twelve years.  Now they are headed back to Brazil to find the boy they did not want.  “Why?” I asked.  And what are the chances of finding him, even if he is still alive
In an effort to create suspense, the author starts the action in the middle of this story.  With no context, no background, I had difficulty relating to the characters and an even bigger problem trying to remember who was who.  Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the characters, but sometimes it is in the present, sometimes in the past, sometimes from an old diary, sometimes from London, sometimes from Rio.  How do these people and their stories fit together?
We have Jose, who has been given everything and lived the good life, safely, in London.  We have Pedro with his “family” of street urchins, pimps and predators.  We have the birth parents Christina and Leandro. We have the college friends who discover how to make a renewable energy that will change the world.  But the the economic impact to powerful and corrupt energy companies puts all three in terrible danger.  We have the sleazy and immoral police in Rio who spray bullets around at night when too many begging children upset the tourists.
Most interesting to me, was the unforgiving and dangerous life of Pedro.  Thrown away with the trash in an alley, he is saved by a decent man who tries to protect him and helps him survive.  But begging and hustling everyday from the age of one is his way of life.  And there are always the payoffs to everyone above him in the scandalous hierarchy that exploits these poorest of the poor.  He is a master pick pocket but must always sleep with one eye open.  Many days he doesn’t eat.  He lives in a pile of rags, he is afraid of the ocean so he has never bathed. He is a hardened little criminal of twelve who has seen more, experienced more, survived more than most adults.
Gibbs has done her research on the slums and street children of Rio and she deals with many issues in this one book.  It is well written and tells stories that need to be told.  But, with saying that, I would classify it as a good read for juveniles or young adults.  Perhaps they could relate more to the characters than I could.  And maybe some of the life lessons dealt with are better directed at that age group.
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