Zulfikar Ghose has cut loose on a joy ride across oceans of improbability just to pound home the message: Be careful what you dream, it may come true. Dreams can breed myopia, self-destruction.
Poor civil servant Felipe Gamboa wants a job promotion so bad he can not only taste it, he can almost set it on the table. His hopes prove his undoing, however, when, angry at not getting the promotion, he turns to drink, then to berating his wife, unjustly accusing his teen-age daughter Mariana and socking her boyfriend Federico. From there, in this country much like Chile, it's a short hop to real trouble, false arrest and exile. He loses his entire world, and all because he wanted a little pay raise.
Federico, propelled into his own search for dream fulfillment, steals money from his parents, loses it all to confidence men, and winds up with a magical amulet that gives his every wish a terrible O. Henry twist. Seeking wealth and women, he is ushered into the life of a gigolo, a kept boy. His life becomes as weirdly fulfilling as Gamboa's seems to be wretchedly unfulfilling.
Although author Ghose is Pakistani by birth, he has lived in Brazil and has full mastery of that cornucopic story richness so beloved of Latin American writers. This tale just keeps spilling riches on the reader as if from, well, a horn of plenty. (The poet-author-teacher is a professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin.)