The Price of Escape
Samuel Berkow’s life has been completely overturned. Once a successful businessman in Hamburg, middle-aged Samuel flees to Guatemala to escape the Nazi regime. Immersed in a culture of bribes, coarse manners, and raw survival, Samuel loses his bearing in just days, becoming with one act of violence the kind of man he’d always despised and feared. But as Samuel contemplates his life as he waits for the train that will take him from a rough port town to the capital city, he realizes that he has never really liked his life or understood the people in it. When he loses his passport in a rainstorm, Samuel wonders if by changing his identity he can change his life.
This novel reminded me a great deal of The Stranger by Albert Camus because it evokes the same sense of disorientation and isolation of a man who has just suffered a great loss. I wasn’t sure if I liked Samuel, but then, I’m not sure if Samuel likes himself. At the same time, I found myself liking more and more the despicable Alfred Lewis, the American middle manager for the United Fruit Company who befriends Samuel, saving him more than once from his naiveté and indecisiveness. Though I enjoyed the book, I remain unsure if the price of Samuel’s escape is losing his life or getting a chance to remake it.