I've enjoyed reading Jorge Amado's novels for most of my life. I love to get back into that world of tough guys and sexy ladies who get involved in various good causes, helping the poor or saving the environment, but never fail to appreciate each other fully. I admire Amado's interest in the Brazilian religions known as macumba or candomble, religions based on a mixture of African gods and Christian saints and practiced by millions of Brazilians, whether they possess African ancestors or not. He always weaves a fast-moving, humorous, optimistic, colorful story. How close Amado's world may be to the actual Brazil is something else again. I mean, did "Miami Vice" resemble Miami in any substantial way ?
If you've enjoyed such great novels as "Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon", "The Violent Land", "Tieta do Agreste", "Tent of Miracles", or "Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands"---and there are many others---then no doubt you are going to like THE WAR OF THE SAINTS too. It's a slight plot, but Amado performs his usual magic and creates a engrossing story out of it. The wooden statue of a saint disappears en route to a museum exhibition in Bahia. Everyone thinks the statue has been stolen, but actually St. Barbara, the image in question, has suddenly come to life as an African goddess. Her aim is to set aright the sexual lives of several individuals. She does so and resumes her wooden form just in time to save the director of the museum from total ruin. The histories of the various characters, the political and cultural setting of the times (1970s Bahia under the despotic rule of the generals), and lots of detail about Afro-Brazilian religion make up the bulk of the book, which covers a space of only three days. Amado includes large numbers of actual people in his novel this time---how many, I couldn't determine, not being so familiar with the Brazilian cultural scene, but Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gilberto Freyre, and many others do appear. OK, political correctness a la North American feminism does take a hike, but if you can accept that sexual attraction plays a large role in our lives and not everyone lives by the same principles, then you can plunge into the joie de vivre, humor, and happiness that suffuse this novel, like so many others by Amado. I could have called my review "Reading a Samba". For sure it's tropicalismo, but you'll definitely like it.