BY: INES RODRIGUES
Felipe Navarra rises from poverty to conquer São Paulo, Brazil, the city he loves. He becomes a radio celebrity in the age of Bossa Nova, classic sambas, and radionovelas. On his way to fame and fortune, he falls into a heartbreaking love triangle with his childhood sweetheart and sells his soul to the dark dictatorship that took over Brazil from 1964 to 1985. His rise runs parallel with the city’s decent into crime, where the gap between rich and poor gets dangerously wide and no one is really safe…
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Days of Bossa Nova by Inez Rodrigues, Felipe Navarra wants to be a radio announcer, but growing up poor in Brazil gives him limited options. The story follows his life from a child after his father dies, through his formative years, his adult life, and into his old age. Through his eyes, we see the colorful, exotic world of Brazil, with all of its problems and successes, as Felipe struggles to make his dreams come true and to build a better life for him and his family, during the years when Bossa Nova was so popular.
Rodrigues tells an incredible story of hardship, unbridled determination, and the unbreakable spirit of a young man determined to be all that he was capable of, no matter the cost. A marvelous read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Days of Bossa Nova by Ines Rodrigues is the story of Felipe Navarra. The story begins in 1940 when Felipe is just a child living in abject poverty after the death of his father. His widowed mother moves the family by train to Sao Paulo in hopes that she can give them a better life, thus changing Felipe’s life forever. In Sao Paulo, the family struggles to survive by any means possible, which includes the children getting jobs and doing everything they can to help their mother make ends meet. As Felipe grows older, he dreams of becoming a radio announcer and playing records for radio audiences. But these types of jobs are very hard to break into, and no one thinks he can do it.
Days of Bossa Nova opens a window on the rich, varied, and exotic country of Brazil that few travelers will ever see. We experience through Felipe both extreme hardship and abundant fame and fortune, but the good fortune comes at a price. A thought-provoking and moving story told in a rich and unique voice. I heartily recommend it.
São Paulo, Brazil, 2009:
On the day of my older sister’s funeral, my wife gave me an extra dose of diuretic pills, and her mistake saved my life. Nobody died when part of the second floor collapsed, but I am seventy-five years old, and I’ve been enduring a long parade of physical suffering. How could I run downstairs as fast as the children when the floor, eaten by thousands of termites, cracked and shook like an earthquake?
I was supposed to see the body, but, as there was just one bathroom on the ground floor and I had to use it every ten minutes, we all thought it was safer for me to pay my respects from a distance and sit on the porch.
Termites were the only company Rá had in old age. Eating, chewing, carving their way into the old floors, cabinets, closets, digging sinister tunnels, inch by inch, the insects probably planned to take occupancy when the house was finally left alone. The fall of the second floor during her wake was more dramatic than carpideiras’ tears—women who were hired in the old times to cry at funerals and make them all more sentimental. First we heard a cracking noise and, suddenly, the wooden planks seemed to be just made of paper as they started to fall down and apart. People stomped fast down the stairs, before the room came down in a few seconds with the bed and the corpse. Luckily, there was nobody standing in the living room right below, as we always congregate in the kitchen. The termite colony showed the Navarra family who was the boss and who inherited my sister’s house.
Insects are like the criminals in this city. They rule and control everything. Thank God, I don’t need to go out and win my bread every day anymore. I remember a time when leaving the house in the morning had an exciting taste of discovery: the cold smell of rain, the constant drizzle in the winter, women wearing black gloves and skirts, the metallic noise of trams scratching the rails. Now we have a safety list instilled in our brains: don’t take your debit card in your wallet to avoid being kidnapped; don’t wear jewelry; don’t drive with the windows opened or, instead of a breeze in your face, you will face a gun or a knife, your watch and cell phone will be gone in seconds. Streets are crowded, buses are noisy, rich people are snobs, and poverty has long lost its dignity.
“Felipe, Felipe,” Rá told me the last time we saw each other. “Who, between the two of us, is going to close the family gates?”
After all four of our siblings were dead, the gates were the only prize we competed with each other for. As I was not in great shape, my angelic wife Emilia used to see her more often than I did, and Rá never forgave me.
“I am going to leave all my money to Emilia. She is the only one who loves me,” she said proudly, her brown eyes opaque by cataracts.
I really couldn’t care less about Rá’s money. She was so attached to her coins that they might bring bad luck to whomever takes them. I’m pretty sure she died in her bed, scrubbing her thumb and index finger constantly, the sign of counting money in her final hour.
“Auntie Rá was so scared, she didn’t even have a husband or a child to pass the money on. She was lonely, the poor thing,” my niece Mariana said.
She was always kind. I couldn’t care less.
“Mariana, dear, can you bring me two slices of that chocolate cake I saw in the kitchen?”
“You know you shouldn’t be eating cake.”
“Today is a special day.”
After the fall of the house, and after a cleaning crew was called to rescue the dignity of the dead, Rá was taken to the cemetery wake room where she stayed until the time of her funeral. The whole family, not more than twenty souls, remained all night, praying rosaries and sweating under the November humidity. She was buried in the morning after a quick ceremony, and I couldn’t wait to go back to my air-conditioned Mercedes once we placed white roses on the fresh tomb. Rá was gone, and I was left to close the gates.
© 2017 by Ines Rodrigues
Author, Eileen Palma:
No passport or time travel machine is necessary to expe-rience life in São Paulo, Brazil, over the past 70 years of political unrest and financial change. Ines Rodrigues’s descriptive writing will make you taste the Brazilian cof-fee and hear the Bossa Nova music, while you join Felipe on his journey from a poverty stricken childhood to a life of wealth and privilege. ~ Eileen Palma, author of Worth the Weight
Marlena Maduro Barah:
This multi-layered novel opens a window on Brazil for English speakers. Its humanity is illustrated in the charac-ters of the Navarra family. It also tells the story of São Paulo in the second half of the century, the vibrant music, flavors and smells of the city…the criminality that infect-ed every aspect of life. Rodrigues is a wonderful story-teller. ~ Marlena Maduro Baraf, blogger of the Soy/Somos series on Huffpost