Friday, November 10, 2017

Book Review: In The Midst of Winter

Author: Isabel Allende
Publication Date: October 31, 2017
Publisher: Atria Books

New York Times and worldwide bestselling “dazzling storyteller” (Associated Press) Isabel Allende returns with a sweeping novel about three very different people who are brought together in a mesmerizing story that journeys from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil.

In the Midst of Winter begins with a minor traffic accident—which becomes the catalyst for an unexpected and moving love story between two people who thought they were deep into the winter of their lives. Richard Bowmaster—a 60-year-old human rights scholar—hits the car of Evelyn Ortega—a young, undocumented immigrant from Guatemala—in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn. What at first seems just a small inconvenience takes an unforeseen and far more serious turn when Evelyn turns up at the professor’s house seeking help. At a loss, the professor asks his tenant Lucia Maraz—a 62-year-old lecturer from Chile—for her advice. These three very different people are brought together in a mesmerizing story that moves from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil, sparking the beginning of a long overdue love story between Richard and Lucia.

Exploring the timely issues of human rights and the plight of immigrants and refugees, the book recalls Allende’s landmark novel The House of the Spirits in the way it embraces the cause of “humanity, and it does so with passion, humor, and wisdom that transcend politics” (Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post). In the Midst of Winter will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

In the days of when Richard lived in Rio de Janeiro, people drank as a matter of course. It was a social obligation, part of the culture, a necessity at every meeting, even business ones, a comfort on a rainy evening or at a hot noon, a stimulus for political discussion, and a cure for a cold, sadness, frustrated love, or a disappointment in soccer.

In the meantime, the streets and beaches of the erotic city of Rio de Janeiro teemed with life. In February, the hottest month, people went around almost naked. Beautiful, youthful, tanned, sweating bodies; bodies and more bodies on exuberant display.

The young woman who Richard was never to forget was not one of the most beautiful of the girls he met during those caipirinha nights, but she was lively, with an uninhibited laugh, and keen to try whatever she was offered.

No one asked her about the years she had been away, no one wanted to know where she had been or what her life had been like. That parenthesis in her existence was completely erased.

“In the Midst of Winter” is an extraordinarily enjoyable novel, beautifully written, about three people brought together for a few days due to a snowstorm. Through a compelling mix of history, mystery, romance and humor, Allende emphasizes the resilience of the human spirit, as her characters transform from their histories of tragedy to their futures of love, hope and humanity. The narrative shifts between three main characters. Richard Bowmaster is a 60 year old human rights scholar that has recruited 62 year old Lucia Maraz, a lecturer from Chile, to his university. Evelyn Ortega is an undocumented Guatamalan refugee that works as a domestic. This novel surrounds themes of love, friendship, family, and the things that bind us. Allende’s prose is lyrical, as always, and I absolutely could not put this book down.

Isabel Allende is one of my favorite authors to read because of her ability to weave multiple story lines into one beautiful tale. The book tackled topics like aging and what that means to us, immigration and the struggles that are associated with it, and lastly, our hope through it all. The story is moving and completely heart wrenching at time; each character is carrying something that wears them down and the story follows how they finally deal with it and are relieved when the burdens are lifted. This book is perfect for the upcoming winter season, as it is set during a huge snowstorm and it is also very relevant because of all the information in our news about immigrants and refugees in the past few years. I am already looking forward to re-reading this uplifting story.

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Atria Books in exchange for my honest review***

1 comment:

  1. I love Isabel she is one of my fav authors in Spanish
    Great review

    Ruty @Reading…Dreaming