BOOK TITLE: In the Midst of Winter
BOOK AUTHOR: Isabel Allende
PUBLISHER: Atria Books |
October 31st 2017
GENRES: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Women's Fiction
CHECK IT OUT AT: Goodreads
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.
I love Isabel Allende. In my mind her books are always a warm hug, keeping the threats of a cold world at bay for a few hours.
In the Midst of Winter takes this analogy of a cold world even further. The book begins in a blizzard in New York City, while the characters keep warm in their own respective homes. Richard is 60 and set in a very strict routine, refusing to acknowledge his attraction to Lucia, a 62 year-old Chilean woman living in his basement apartment.
When a car collision brings young Guatemalan immigrant Evelyn into their world, the two are drawn together in an effort to help Evelyn. Between chapters telling the story of their adventure, Allende also tells their individual stories in their Central American homes, which also gives readers a glance at the histories of those countries (Chile, Guatemala, and Brazil, FYI).
The title In the Midst of Winter works in other ways as well. The story takes place in the midst of the winter season, so there’s that obvious point. But Richard and Lucia are in the winters of their lives, and much of the story focuses on the question of love and a relationship for them. Can they find love?
There is so much heartache and sadness in each character’s history, and how each of them survives the heartache is so human and real. Lucia is the catalyst of this story, the one that brings them all together and pushes them to solve Evelyn’s problem and to live a bit.
I believe the overriding theme of In the Midst of Winter is ‘don’t give up!’ Keep pushing, keep dreaming, keep going even when it seems impossible. Step out your comfort zone and live a bit!
I loved the backstories and the history of their respective tumultuous countries. Lucia grew up in the shadow of facism in Chile in the 1970’s, losing a brother in the ensuing governmental change. Evelyn grew up in Guatemala during the rise of MS-13, and is forced to travel with a mule to the United States, where she became an underage refugee. Richard lived in Brazil for a few years do post-grad work, and ended up with a very sad story that caused him to shrink his life drastically.
The backstories, and the history, all add to the ‘adventure’ during the snow storm. The actions of all three characters are understandable because of their histories.
Underlying the ‘adventure’ is the hope for a romance between Richard and Lucia. Will they? won’t they? Can he overcome his anxiety? Can she cajole him out of his routine? Can Evelyn help bring them together, or will she tear them apart? All of these questions float through the book, and all are answered.
I loved this story. I love the thought of love through the ages, and I loved the intertwining of history throughout. A great read, perfect for cold, winter days!