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In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende


In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende

This story about late love and second chances is set against the backdrop of a raging Brooklyn snowstorm. But the novel is more than a love story. It examines the complex pasts of its three protagonists while tackling human rights abuses in Chile and Guatamala. The novel also highlights the life of an illegal immigrant whose main concern is her personal safety.

The novel revolves around Evelyn Ortega, a slight Guatemalan woman living in the United States illegally. Her story of escape from the horrible gang violence that plagues Guatemala is a focal point in the book. Another protagonist is 62-year-old Lucia Maraz, a survivor of the Pinochet regime in Chile. She has lived for years in exile in Canada and the United States. Although she has returned to Chile in recent years, her bout with illness and her divorce have left her at loose ends. When Richard Bowmaster, a fellow professor, invites her to teach at his university in Brooklyn and offers her lodging, she accepts.

Richard is a crusty sexogenarian—a man who reminds one of J. Alfred Prufrock of T. S. Eliot fame. Yet his life as a young man in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, was passionate and wild; his alcoholism resulted in devastating tragedy that plagued him for years.

The three lives are thrown together when, during the snowstorm, Richard accidentally skids into the car Evelyn is driving. And, lo and behold, there is a dead body in the trunk of the car. The three characters get to know one another during the madcap adventure of disposing of the body.

Although premise of the adventure is zany and not the strongest element of the book, the back stories of the protagonists are emotionally-wrought and edifying.  Allende has, once again, written an engaging tale of love with political and social overtones. As with all of her novels, In the Midst of Winter has engaging, sympathetic characters we, the readers, cheer on to a happy ending.

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