Brenna's Reviews > The Halfway House

The Halfway House by Guillermo Rosales
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Oct 18, 09

Read in October, 2009

William Figueras is a man who dreams. He dreams of his home in Cuba, of Fidel Castro, of the living and the dead, and of most unspeakable violence.

He also dreams of leaving the Halfway House, of marrying, of having a life free from disembodied voices and spirits.

William Figueras indulges himself with the words of English poets, long since dead; the likes of William Blake, Samuel Coleridge, and Lord Byron. He also reads the work of Ernest Hemingway, dead from suicide at the age of 61.

Author Guillermo Rosales also succumbed to the irresistible pull of suicide before his 50th year. The Halfway House is one of the few works which survived the period of manic destruction Rosales careened into, robbing the world of his own twisted genius.

As it is, The Halfway House reads like the biography of a man who has lost his wits with the world. Well-read and intelligent, the man's schizoid delusions are but a sidebar to his vibrant personality, differentiating him from the other "locos" with whom he resides in the Miami residence. Living amongst such characters as Pepe the Retard, Louie the American, Pino the Silent Nut, and One-Eyed Reyes, one is tempted to find a descriptive noun to place upon the story's narrator: William the Former Communist? William the Introvert?

William the Hopeless?

William proves to be not so much hopeless, however, as a victim of his unfortunate circumstances. Falling prey to his own violent tendencies (abusing his fellow residents on a whim, thus following the lead of the Halfway House's seedy manager, and stealing from them), William remains sympathetic to the reader because it becomes increasingly clear that the man has no ideal direction. He has the intellect, but not the intrinsic ability, to control most of his primal urges. His acting out is more out of self-loathing and frustration than any real animosity toward those around him. Toothless, emaciated, and paranoid, William derides himself for having become a mockery of his former self, a man who hails from a "fine Cuban petit bourgeois family" (to whom he has become a source of humiliation), with a wide litany of artistic cognizance.

And yet, hope still lies dormant within him. He cannot bring himself to dredge it out, though, until he falls into the company of fellow "lunatic" Frances. He abuses her, at first, seemingly out of confusion with her fragile state and docile compliance. "Yes, my angel," she utters as he strangles her into unconsciousness. "Whatever you want, my angel..."

Frances, like William, has hope lying unfathomed within her dementia.

Frances, like William, expresses the urge to die.

The Halfway House is reminiscent of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, providing insight as to the escape from those most abhorrent of cognizant failings. The physical conditions within Rosales' novel, although inconceivably horrid to the reader, are presented briefly for the cause of the novel. The Halfway House is maddening, frustrating, and repulsive.

It is also an unseen reality for the mentally incompetent.
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