Yet even in a new town Alonso is not safe. He gets into contact with his best friend Rodolfo who has suffered at the hand of the Peruvian police. Because of his losses due to police brutality, Rodolfo has become enamored with the revolution and encourages Alonso to join him fight against the government. Alonso soon finds himself in a serious moral dilemma. Does he turn his back on his friend who has helped out his family? Does he join the people who assassinated his mother? Or should he do nothing and become a potential victim again?
The Book has several strengths - chief among them the characters of Alonso and Rosa. They were compelling characters that helped to keep the story moving along. Their romance was not only very sweet, but also helps to set up the political and cultural climate of class divisions and revolution. The story shifts back and forth from their perspectives. This adds an element of suspense, especially as their lives become increasingly endangered due to rising violence. Readers will want to finish the book if only to see how their relationship is resolved.
Regrettably, there were also some weaknesses. I found it hard to believe that Alonso would be swept up in the movement and join the revolutionary group that had just murdered his mother. Especially since the revolutionaries only conversed in tired clichés and unconvincing rhetoric. It was also somewhat difficult to understand the political and cultural landscape of Peru. Useful Fools is set during a time of incredible political unrest when average people were caught between a corrupt police force and revolutionary terrorists. According to the author’s note nearly 70,000 Peruvians died during this time period. Unfortunately, this author’s note comes at the end of the story. Readers who are unfamiliar with Peru’s political history might find it difficult to grasp the various political background necessary to fully understand the story. It would have been much more helpful to have this note at the beginning of the novel to familiarize readers before they began reading.