In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende

In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende

Published by Atria (October 31, 2017)
304 pages (Kindle Edition)
Advance reading copy provided by the publisher
Amazon
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Stranded in the basement of her boss's Brooklyn brownstone (from whom she rents a space that has seen better days) during one of the worst winter storms in recent history, university professor Lucia Maraz assumes that she'll only have to endure the inconvenience of this arrangement until the snow clears. However, when Richard Bowmaster, her boss and landlord, accidentally rear-ends the Lexus of a man who may have ties to significant criminal activity, she realizes that she may be in for more than she'd ever imagined. 

Lucia had joked to Richard that he should sell this relic with its rickety stairs and dilapidated doors and grow old living like royalty on a Caribbean island, but Richard was a gloomy man whose natural pessimism was reinforced by the demands and drawbacks of a house with five large empty rooms, three unused bathrooms, a closed-off attic, and a first floor with such high ceilings that you needed an extension ladder to change a lightbulb.

Putting aside the drama of the aforementioned scenario, Allende shines, as usual, thanks to her ability to weave stories into stories. The historical references, as both Lucia and Richard recount the experiences of their younger days to Evelyn Ortega, terrified driver of the Lexus, are spectacular; this novel reminds me why I am drawn to the events that have taken place in Latin America over the past several decades.  

Parks for children had been created on the banks of the Mapocho River, and no one remembered the garbage or the bodies the river had once carried away. In the center, the gray buildings, the traffic of buses and motorbikes, the drab poverty of office workers, the weary passersby, and the boys juggling at the streetlights to beg a few pesos were in stark contrast to the shopping malls of the rich neighborhoods.

Thrown together under difficult circumstances, and with an interesting bit of cargo in the trunk of the Lexus, these three characters, in the midst of their trauma, unravel their own struggles in their efforts to help one another. From grief and disappointment to love and generosity, Allende highlights the power of unexpected relationships and the uncanny ways in which we are all connected. 

Having studied Latin American history and the Spanish language in college, I have read several of Allende's novels (even in Spanish; I'm sure I couldn't do that now!); she continues to inspire with her colorful, descriptive writing and sense of adventure. 

October 2017 Miles and Pages

October 2017 Miles and Pages

Nonfiction November 2017: Let's Begin!

Nonfiction November 2017: Let's Begin!