The Portuguese Witness
by John Reidy

"'You have to take him for who he says he is,' said the old man, 'even if the concept of someone travelling from one time zone to another is difficult to accept.'"

Paulo de Silva Barros is a highly accomplished architect and business owner across Portugal, running hotel chains and designing various structures for the local government and clients. But Paulo’s success isn’t without heartbreak and hardship, as he’s endured many losses and loneliness over the course of his life. Claudio Braccarri is a landowner and mine owner of ancient Rome, fleeing Lusitania from the invading Suevi hordes. He is en route to Olissippo with many of his belongings when a lightning accident strikes him, setting a path in motion that will allow Paulo and Claudio to meet under unlikely circumstances.

A story of luck, fate, and friendship, this novel crosses through time to highlight the compassion and accomplishments of humanity. Told via an omniscient narrator, the book reads similar to early twentieth-century literature with straightforward, practical observation, focusing mostly on how the events of the novel unfold. The majority of the tension of the story comes from Paulo and company trying to figure out if Claudio’s story is real and then figuring out how to place him within modern-day Portuguese society. For the most part, the story progresses rather smoothly with minimal bumps and obstacles to overcome.

The author takes great care in providing full descriptions of average Portuguese life, including foods consumed, the architecture and vibrancy of cities, and the daily ins-and-outs of commuting, shopping, and doing business. Readers get to see Lisbon and other Portuguese cities through Claudio’s eyes as places of opportunity, which strengthens the connection between Claudio and Paulo. They are both men looking for success and contentedness, and their shared country provides that chance.

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