Book Review - “The Navidad Incident: The Downfall of Matías Guili”

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Let me start this right away with this caveat: This book is NOT an easy read. If you’re expecting a light hearted whodunit or a fast paced thriller about the disappearance of a buss full of Japanese WWII veterans and the frantic search to locate them, you’ll be disappointed.

“The Navidad Incident” is less about the vanishing bus than the fall of the president of the island nation, Matias Guili. Guili is in negotiations with Japan to store a cache of oil on Navidad’s shores. At the same time, the veterans come to visit, board a bus for a tour and are never seen again.

As you read, you learn of the complicated history of Guili and the relations between Navidad and Japan. Guili was an orphan who never knew is father; possibly a Japanese soldier who was one of many to occupy Navidad. Guili crawled his way up into power and hopes to keep his nation from falling under the influence of Japan again. He sees his goal as trying to do his best for his country, not seem weak to Japan, and locate this bus of missing people before it turns into an international incident.

“Navidad” is a slow book but that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. For me, it was like a 10,000 piece puzzle; riveting while in it but once you stop, it’s a job to pick it up again. The imagery is lush and the translation is smooth so you won’t get tripped up by poorly translated colloquial phrases.

If you’re looking for an interesting, intellectually challenging treatise on colonialism mixed with modern myth, I recommend this book.