Monday, January 22, 2018

In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende

I was reminded of two things when I read this book:  1.  So much of what I read is entertaining but not particularly well written.  Allende, to me, is a real master.  Her words are just such a pleasure to read, whatever it is she is writing about (as an aside, kudos to the translator as this was not originally written in English).  2.  Though I seldom read them I never seem to agree with the reviews in the New York Times book review.  They happened to review this book this weekend and were not terribly flattering.  They didn't like either the story or the prose.  I guess it wasn't convoluted, pretentious and needlessly wordy enough for them - that seems to be their preferred style.

This book centres around one of the biggest Brooklyn snowstorms in living memory.  A sixty something professor, Richard Bowmaster, has to venture out in the snow to take his ailing cat to the vet.  On the way home he hits the car of Evelyn, a young undocumented immigrant from Guatemala. At the accident scene she is in shock and won't even talk to Richard, though she is frantic over the broken trunk.  He is confident his insurance will take care of the small matter and thrusts his card in her lap.

Later that evening Evelyn shows up on Richard's doorstep.  Having difficulty with her stuttering Spanish, he enlists the assistance of his colleague and tenant, Lucia Maraz.  Lucia is on a temporary work visa from Chile.  As the storm continues to rage, Richard and Lucia learn why Evelyn is so frantic about the seemingly minor car accident and resolve to help her.  Along the way they share their troubled pasts with each other and Richard and Lucia fall in love.  There are also strong political statements about Trump's treatment of hispanic immigrants, and particularly the undocumented ones.

I don't want to give away what the problem or the solution were so I won't say much more, but I highly recommend you read the book to find out.  Unless of course you always agree with NYT book reviews in which case you should probably give this one a pass.

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