Astonishingly vivid, bawdy, and tempestuous, this novel is a cautionary tale about greed and class conflict in postcolonial Guyana. Comparing ruthless 20th-century prospectors to the long-ago Spanish explorers who raped a continent in their quest for El Dorado, the novel follows the dreams and delusions of Aron Smart, a youth orphaned early in life and brought up on a farm by his grandparents who impressed upon him the value of an education. When Aron's schooling is cut short after a reversal of fortune, however, he becomes deeply discouraged by his lack of opportunity and decides to follow in his father's footsteps as a diamond prospector. He quickly becomes very rich--his companions in the mines call him "Shark"--and he is determined to use his new wealth to buy his way into the middle class. But Aron is out of his element in the world of property and prestige, and, cheated of his fortune, he returns to the interior, mining with a reckless madness that leaves him terribly maimed in an accident--and causes him to dream of returning to his grandfather's life, built on the solid rhythms of farming and caring for the land.