Delacorte, Jul 2003, 24.95, 499 pp.
In 1800 Porto, Portugal, the memories of the Spanish Inquisition linger as Jews hide their faith to avoid a repeat of their previous fate. In this environs nine-year-old John Zarco Stewart becomes a friend with slightly older street person Daniel. John soon learns that his family is Jewish, which is why they are shunned by much of the townsfolk and fail to practice in their home. Violeta joins the two boys, but the guys one day find marks on her body as if someone battered her. She insists she fell, but her two pals think her odious uncle assaulted her.
When Daniel drowns and Violeta's family removes her from Porto, John feels bored and guilty because he thinks he caused misfortune for his two only pals until his papa brings home a new companion, African Bushman Midnight, who turns into a friend and mentor. As John becomes an adult, he marries, but a secret from the past propels him to journey to America where he starts a new adventure with a black woman.
HUNTING MIDNIGHT is a biographical fiction that consists of two stories. The first part of the book centers on the coming of age of the narrator. This segment is insightful as it provides depth to life on the Iberian peninsular during the Napoleonic Era, but also moves forward slowly as the misadventures seem somewhat trivial. The latter half of the book focuses on adventures of John the adult in the Americas. This is quite exciting as John adapts to a strange new world. Richard Zimler returns his audience to Portugal three centuries after his delightful THE LAST KABBALIST OF LISBON with a strong historical tale.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner