In the Midst of Winter: A Novel

by Isabel Allende

Hardcover, 2017

Call number




Atria Books (2017), 352 pages


"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"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Beamis12
This was the monthly buddy read between Angela,Esil and I. I love many of the books this author has written, although I thought her earlier novels were the most powerful. The first few chapters of this one are meant to familiarize the reader with the characters. Then we started exploring their back stories,and at first I thought this might be her most powerful book yet. Unfortunately didn't feel that way the end. She introduced something that seemed like a gimmicky artifice to me.

I asked myself why she told the story in this way? Why another body? All I can think is that she was trying to include interludes between the back stories. Quite frankly I think she included too much, too much grimness, too much sorrow. Why do we have to learn everyone's back stories, Evelyn's employees horrible story. Why to explain the body of course. I think any one of these individuals could have made their own story, their own book.
The writing is wonderful, I even liked the characters, how could you not. But it lacks cohesiveness, taken as a whole it is overkill. The few places where humor is displayed, the old dog, the moose, is only a small relief for which is a terribly sad story of a group of people who have suffered greatly.

Also, I am getting a little tired of all these so called timely novels, about refugees, not that I am unsympathetic, but the theme has been way overdone. Think how many we have read lately, Exit West, Salt house, the authors are even putting this subject in their mystery novels.

Will probably also rate three just for the writing, but I am very disappointed. I'm sure many will have a different opinion, and as I said it could be the surfeit of refugee/immigrant writing out there. Have just read too many lately, but really I think even if that was not the case, my opinion would be little changed.

ARC from Netgalley.
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LibraryThing member amaraki
A thoroughly enjoyable book. Thank you to my daughter for this perfect Christmas gift. It had everything. A fast paced narrative. Many life insights, really little pearls of wisdom. There were observations on modern world social inequalities and social problems, but never heavy handed ones. A fine and wry humour throughout the book, as well as interesting theme parallels e.g. friendships, that add another layer of meaning. There was a deep and rich character development which basically formed the structure of the book, the life stories of the main characters woven among their current adventure. And above all, there was romance, a mature one at that.… (more)
LibraryThing member mdbrady
Another new novel by a popular and important Chilean American woman.

In the 1980s, Isabel Allende burst on the scene with her House of the Spirits. She was among the first of many global women to expand American women’s understanding of what life was like for women beyond our provincial boundaries. In doing so, she also introduced us to “magical realism,” a style of writing that incorporates spiritual or magical elements. Now an American citizen, she has published many novels and won many awards. Allende continues to writes today when she is in her seventies, sometimes dealing with issues of aging and dying.

In the Midst of Winter is set in New York where three individuals come together on an unlikely adventure. Richard is the Director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean studies at New York University. He is a reserved man, full of guilt over his past. Lucia teaches in his program and lives in his basement. Originally from Chile, she has come to terms with her own past. Evelyn is a young undocumented woman from Guatemala who works as a nanny and brings complications into the lives of the other two.

I enjoyed this book, but I felt it lacked the lively energy I have come to expect from Allende. Woven into the memories of the two women, however, was the Allende I had remembered. Each of the characters recalls what had happened in their past. Lucia tells of the takeover of the Chilean government and the killing of its president, a man, who in real life,o was related to Allende. Evelyn remembers the period when violence was widespread in Guatemala.

I gladly recommend this book to all. It is good, if not Allende’s best. Reading it, I was inspired to reread House of the Spirits, which I also enjoyed.
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LibraryThing member teachlz

I appreciate the different layers written by Isabel Allende, author of "In the Midst of Winter" Isabel Allende is a talented storyteller, and captivates the reader with intriguing background information and colorful characters. The genres for this story are Fiction, Romance, Adventure, and Romance with some History that is included. The timeline is in the present, and in the past when it provides information about the characters and events in the story. The story takes place currently in Brooklyn (and surrounding areas) , and is described in the past to Guatemala, Chile, and Brazil.

The author describes the characters as complicated , complex and conflicted. A major snowstorm and a mild car accident is how the three main characters meet. Richard Bowmaster is a 60 year old human rights professor that accidentally hits the Lexus that Evelyn Ortega, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala is driving. Evelyn shows up shortly thereafter asking his help. Richard calls his tenant, Lucia Maraz, a 60 ish year old lecturer from Chile for help. As the weather gets progressively worse, the three wind up sharing their tragic and difficult earlier lives in the countries they were in.

The three of them also find themselves in a dangerous and complicated situation that they have to work together to resolve.

I appreciate that the author discusses important issues in society as people's rights and freedom, immigration, displaced people, spousal abuse, bullying and abuse, and the hardships of taking care of sick children. The author also discussed the importance of family, friendship, hope and love. I would highly recommend this novel to those readers that enjoy Fiction. I received a copy of this Advanced Reading Copy for my honest review.
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LibraryThing member lostinalibrary
Despite a raging snowstorm, Richard Bowman, a seemingly standoffish professor at NYU, had taken his sick cat to the vet. When his car slides into the back of a Lexus, he gives the driver his information but, instead of responding, she drives away. Later, she appears at his door. She doesn’t seem to speak English so he decides to ask his tenant and fellow professor, Lucia Marez, to help. Originally from Chile, Lucia is used to earthquakes, tsunamis, and political upheavals but this storm has left her shaken and she is happy for the opportunity for companionship.

She soon discovers that the woman is named Evelyn, she is from Guatemala, works as a nanny, and had borrowed her employer’s car without permission. She is now terrified to go home. As the three wait out the storm, they discuss their lives including Lucia’s youth during the 1973 coup and Evelyn’s horrifying encounters with gang violence. Eventually Evelyn tells them that she can’t return the car because the damage has revealed that there is a dead body in the trunk, presumably put their by her employer. Notifying the police is not an option because Evelyn could be deported so the three hatch a plan to get rid of the body.

Isabelle Allende’s writing has become synonymous with lyrical prose, complex characters, magical realism and intricate plots and her latest book, In the Midst of Winter is no exception. It is a beautifully written book, both heartwarming and heart wrenching, about friendship, love including the possibility of love in middle age, and family.

Thanks to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review
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LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
In The Midst of Winter, Isabel Allende, Author; Dennis Boutsikaris, Jasmine Cephas Jones, and Alma Cuervo, Narrators
Over a period of almost five decades, working backwards into the past, the author follows and reveals the lives of three unhappy and lonely individuals. Each had traumatic experiences in their lives, and each carried the scars of those events. Each had a unique and distinct personality which was fashioned, in part, by those incidents. Even the pets and children in this novel have some sort of ordeal in their past that altered their lives. Although each of the characters lives in Brooklyn, they also have, in common, a past connected to Latin America by way of Brazil, Chile and Guatemala. Two of the characters, Richard and Lucia, are in the sixth decade of their lives and one, Evelyn, is barely out of her teens when they meet. Richard Bowmaster and Lucia Maraz both live at the same address and work at NYU. Evelyn Ortega works as a caretaker for Frank and Cheryl Leroy’s disabled child.
One snowy night, as 2016 begins, Richard and Evelyn are each out on the road in less than optimal conditions. Distracted, Richard crashes his car into the back of the “borrowed” Lexus Evelyn is driving. Although he attempts to exchange information and accepts responsibility for the accident, Evelyn leaves the scene in a hurry, but not before he throws a business card into her car. When she knocks on his door, later in that day, he calls on Lucia to help him communicate with the woman. Lucia has a good command of her native tongue. Richard, an American, does not have a good command of Evelyn’s language.
As the story of each of their lives is revealed, the reader will be hard pressed not to feel deeply touched by their plights. Each of them is escaping or running from a horrifyingly, painful past, a past from which they are trying to recover and renew their lives. The book deals with the tragic experiences of immigrants who try to come to America to escape the violence and corruption of their native land. It deals with the unexpected and horrific tragedies that occur in all our lives, such as Cancer, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and the brutality of the gang called MS13. It covers the evils of alcoholism, the dangers of mental illness and even touches on the modern day issue of gender identity. The ideas of motherhood, devotion, depression, loyalty, infidelity, bigamy, government corruption, drugs, and domestic violence are additional issues touched upon in descriptive detail. There are so many arcs to the story, that it was sometimes hard to keep track of them all. Each character was well meaning, but each was prone or forced into making some difficult and sometimes foolish choices.
In the end, the novel seemed to be a story about two people, who, late in their lives, rediscovered love and purpose. It was a story about how one should age and live a more hopeful and fruitful life. It was a story about behavior, choices and secrets. It addressed whether or not one should do the right thing even when it would cause more harm in the end, or the wrong thing because it might produce the best end results. The novel cuts across class, gender and ethnic lines as friendships develop and each character influences and interacts with the other.
Most often, rules and laws were disregarded and broken with impunity as the author seemed to applaud and mock the moral, legal, and immigration codes of the United States, taking the side of those who preferred to do what they thought was right, regardless of whether or not it was appropriate or lawful. As a matter of fact, the less above-board the behavior seemed, the more the behavior seemed to appeal to the characters. The characters had secrets and many fears. They seemed to be influenced by superstitions and even mysticism.
The narrative wrapped itself around the concerns and issues that face the world today, and covered every tragic experience that flesh is heir to, with an obviously progressive agenda since Obama is mentioned kindly and Trump is trashed. Big bad America was raising corrupt Americans and was indifferent to the plight of those less fortunate, mistreating and underpaying the immigrants regardless of whether or not they were legal. The laws seemed to be arbitrary, rather than binding, and those upholding the law seemed to enjoy wielding their power over those who were powerless.
The story is told alternately from the point of view of each of the three characters and that is how the hardships and catastrophes of their lives are revealed. The book seemed well researched and was full of interesting information. Learning about the superstitions and customs of both Lucia and Evelyn, who were indigenes (native to Latin America), was extremely informative. Exploring the plight of those that sought asylum in the United States and Canada was eye-opening, as well. Revealing how they view the country and its laws and customs was illuminating, but the story often felt contrived, as if the author simply picked the current issues that divide us today and wrote in a character to appropriately fit a narrative to promote her political and social agenda. I was disappointed because I admire this author.
The novel takes place in the winter season, in the borough of a gentrified Brooklyn that has passed through the winter of its life and has begun to have a rejuvenated image, in much the same way as the characters, in the winter of their lives found renewal.
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LibraryThing member dsc73277
I admire the author's humanitarian concern which shines through in this novel. The story itself was a bit too melodramatic to take seriously.
LibraryThing member devilish2
The intertwining stories of Richard, Lucia and Evelyn on a stormy weekend in Brooklyn. This is a novel where you have to suspend belief at certain points, however, the characters and their backgrounds make it all worthwhile.
LibraryThing member tangledthread
Richard Bowmaster is depressed, 60 yr. old university department chair, who has invited Lucia, a survivor of the Pinochet Regime in Chile, for a one year faculty residency in his department. Complete with the offer is the basement apartment in his Manhattan brownstone.

On a stormy winter night, Richard has a minor collision with Evelyn, and undocumented Guatemalan refugee, who has taken her boss's Lexus to get diapers for her charge during this storm. It turns out there is a dead body in the trunk of the Lexus.

The rest of the story unfolds through this winter storm as these three people share the stories of their pasts in South America while they hatch a plan to deal with the body in the trunk in a way that minimizes the risks for Evelyn.

The novel deals with harsh realities of refugees, human trafficking, and oppressive regimes in a way that is enlightening but not heavy handed. There is some gentle humor and love in the midst of pain and dealing with villains.

I give it 4 stars.
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LibraryThing member PamV
I loved this book! One of the things that makes a book so meaningful for me is when and how the reason for the title is revealed. This book was no exception and I found it absolutely beautiful.

Many thanks to netgalley and Atria Books for this advanced readers copy.
LibraryThing member kakadoo202
Solid mystery with a few predictable events. Well written.
LibraryThing member bogopea
I am a fan of Isabel Allende though not every book has captured my attention as did In the Midst of Winter. It tells the story of 3 people forced together by circumstances beyond their control. Richard is a professor at NYU and owns a brownstone in Brooklyn. He rents out the lower apartment to Lucia, also a professor, a women he has known for years through work related conferences. Lucia is Chilean and has a one year contract to teach and she has always been attracted to Richard; however, sees another side of him (stingy with heat and comfort) as a tenant. So Lucia has been there 3 months when the book begins and Richard rear ends another vehicle in a snow storm. The person he hit was an illegal immigrant, Evelyn, driving her employer's Lexus without permission. Richard apologizes and gives her his business card so that the matter can be settled with insurance companies. Instead, several hours later Evelyn shows up at his door but can't speak. Richard wakes Lucia so that she can go up and help. Evelyn is from Guatemala and has trouble speaking to strangers. There is a reason that Evelyn cannot go home and Richard and Lucia get involved with her for the next few days trying to resolve "the situation". So during the raging storm and a road trip they took because of "the situation", they told each other the story of their lives each night. All of them experienced extreme tragedy in the past that had marked them in different ways. Under cover of darkness and blanketed by snow, their lives are revealed through Allende's masterful storytelling.… (more)
LibraryThing member hemlokgang
Boring. This felt like a rewrite of an earlier story. Just not engaging in terms of plot or characters.
LibraryThing member LisaSHarvey
Isabel Allende

MY RATING ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️▫️
PUBLISHER Simon and Schuster Audio
PUBLISHED November 2, 2017

A relevant and lyrical novel that runs the gamut of emotions, blending humor, tragedy, depression and love.

IN THE MIDST OF WINTER begins with a minor traffic accident on a snowy morning in Brooklyn. Richard Bowmaster, a depressed 60-year-old human rights professor slides on the snow into the rear a white Lexus causing some minor damage. The Lexus is driven by Evelyn Ortega, a young undocumented Guatemala immigrant who works as a nanny for a New York gangster. She immediately drives off, as Richard throw his business card through her window. The accident takes a serious turn when Evelyn shows up on Richard’s doorstep later that evening in immense distress and uncommunicative. Not knowing what to do, Richard calls his downstairs tenant Lucia Maraz, a 62-year-old visiting professor from Chile, for help. After several hours, Richard and Lucia are finally able to understand the full extent of Evelyn’s plight regarding the accident and they agree to help her. Later the next day the three travel together to upstate New York in an attempt to resolve Evelyn’s issue. During this trip the story branches into the backstories for each of three protagonists. The backstories, a significant part of the novel takes the reader to Guatemala, Chile and Brazil. Ultimately, a charming unexpected love story develops between Richard and Lucia, who both had given up on ever finding love again.

ISABEL ALLENDE has artfully woven a lyrical novel running the gamut of emotions. This spellbinding novel creatively blends humor, tragedy, depression and love. It takes us places we have never been and shows us things we have never seen. The backstories for each of the three protagonists are tragic, yet here they are in New York trudging though the snow and helping a stranger. The novel is informative and revealing, and at the same time gives us hope, that after the worst thing that could ever happen to you happens, good may ultimately follow, in the most unexpected circumstances.

Lucia’s character was adorable and steals the show, she is feisty and full spunk. She sums up this amazing story when she tells Richard, “Enough wallowing in the sorrows of the past. The only cure for so much misfortune is love.” Richard, on the other hand, adds much levity to the story by his eccentricities and his stomach problems. Evelyn, is in a word, resilient. She has been through more than we can imagine and she still manages to show care and compassion for others. All three diverse characters uniquely come together to form the perfect ensemble in a most relevant book.

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”
- Albert Camus
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LibraryThing member gbelik
We chose this book for our Family Book Club and our phone discussion of the book is this weekend, so I should probably wait until then to write this. But instead....This book is the story of three people brought together one night by an auto accident. One is an immigrant working as a nanny/caregiver, one a visiting scholar from Chile, and the third a widowed professor living an increasingly lonely life. The current time intersects with each person's backstory. The present time story is somewhat improbable, but serves to carry the action quite well as we grow to know our protagonists and see their relationships developing.… (more)
LibraryThing member brangwinn
A minor traffic accident turns into a convoluted farcical attempt to hide a dead body. Along with the silliness, is a very sobering retelling of three lives, A native of Chile shares her story of growing up under dictatorship, an illegal Guatemalan girl tells her nightmare of a life and a college professor shares his former life of loss and alcoholism. This is perhaps one of my most favorite Allende books.… (more)
LibraryThing member ramrak
A bit dull didn’t finish it.
LibraryThing member Cecilturtle
Three characters meet in the mostly unlikely circumstances to the most unlikely events. While the premise is far-fetched, the entire story works, just grazing the magic realism of Allende's first novels.
What makes the book truly touching, however, is the past through which the reader travels to Chili, Guatemala and Brazil, showcasing not only the scale of human emotion but the tormented history of these countries. A wonderful tribute to resilience, courage and love.… (more)
LibraryThing member GirlWellRead
A special thank you to NetGalley, Atria, and Simon & Schuster Canada for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Three different people are brought together in an interesting premise that travels from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to Chile and Brazil in the 1970s.

The story opens with a minor car accident which becomes the catalyst for an unexpected relationship between two people who thought they were living in the winter of their lives. Richard Bowmaster is a 60-year-old American human rights scholar that had lived for a time in Brazil. During a snowstorm, Richard hits the car that Evelyn Ortega is driving. She is a young, undocumented immigrant from Guatemala working as a nanny in the city. At first it seems like a just a minor fender bender, but when Evelyn turns up at the professor’s house needing help, the situation becomes serious. Richard doesn't know what to do with the young woman so he calls on his tenant, Lucia Maraz for her advice. Lucia is a 62-year-old lecturer from Chile who is attracted to Richard but has given up any hope of a more intimate relationship.

These three very different people are brought together in a captivating story. Allende's narrative moves from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil and sparks the beginning of a long overdue love story between the two older characters, Richard and Lucia.

Allende explores the timely issues of human rights and the plight of immigrants and refugees. It is a much needed novel in these regards. However, having the story unfold the way it does is a disservice to the weighty topics that she depicts. The structure is disjointed—the life stories are much more interesting than the modern day storyline that binds the characters together and I felt that Allende should have used another narrative style. The backstories are beautifully written and incredibly moving in their harsh realities but again, the present day plot takes away from this. Perhaps this was done on purpose, to juxtapose a love story against the darkness.
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LibraryThing member N.W.Moors
When Richard Bowmaster hits the back of the Lexus that Evelyn Ortega is driving in the middle of a snowstorm, he is suddenly enmeshed in a much more serious crime. He asks Lucia Maraz, his basement tenant for advice, and the three are off on an adventure none could have foreseen. Along the way, the reader learns the backstories of each: Richard is a professor at NYU who lived in Brazil for many years, Lucia is also a professor from Chile, and Evelyn is an undocumented refugee from Guatemala.
Their stories are especially important in today's world, dealing with refugees seeking asylum, human rights, and human trafficking. Meanwhile, the growing relationship between Richard and Lucia is sweet and is the perfect anchor that holds the disparate sections of the story together. Some of the scenes dealing with what's happening in Guatemala and what happened in Chile are hard to read but are also something Americans should know.
The title comes from a quote from Albert Camus: "In the midst of winter, I finally found there was within me an invincible summer." It not only represents the senior romance between Richard and Lucia, but also the resiliency of each of the three main characters. The writing is excellent, humorous without preaching. I very much enjoyed this book.
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LibraryThing member Smits
I truly love the way Isabel Allende tells a story,. While , in my opinion,this is not her best novel I still enjoyed it very much. I enjoyed the character of Lucia Maraz from Chili and Evelyn Ortega an undocummented immigrant. Through them we learn of the political injustices in Chile.
LibraryThing member nancyadair
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.—Albert Camus
In the middle of a blizzard, Richard is moved to shed his twenty-five year long isolation and dares to love again, guided by Lucia, who has lost everything several times but still takes a chance on love.

What brings them together is Evelyn, an undocumented alien, the loving caretaker of a boy with Cerebral Palsy whose parents' toxic relationship and troubled lives has left her knowing more than is safe for her to know.

The trio resolve to undertake a dangerous mission to protect Evelyn, a journey into a silent landscape of deep snow and journeys to their pasts.

Isabel Allende's In the Midst of Winter is a story of rebirth, forgiveness, and love. The character's back stories take up the most space, told piecemeal in long chapters between the action.

Lucia is an immigrant, a professor, who escaped Chile when her brother's involvement with a gang led to his death and made her life unsafe. Lucia is a character women will love. Evelyn is an illegal alien from Guatemala who also took the dangerous journey to America to save her life. Both women understand what it is like for a loved one to simply disappear.

Richard is Lucia's boss at New York University and had invited her to be a visiting professor. He rents Lucia a basement room. He has lived in a winter world ever since the loss of his baby to SIDS left his wife severely depressed. Richard drank and partied his sorrows away. A tragic accident took their remaining child's life, and later he lost his wife.

I felt sympathy for the characters and appreciated Allende addressing the violence that causes most of today's immigration to America. She demonstrates the horrors that force people to leave their homeland and family and give a face to illegal immigrants. Allende's passion for the plight of women and children is evident throughout the novel.

The novel shows that in the midst of great disappointment and pain people can find new life, that the possibility of love can come unexpectedly. The love story between Richard and Lucia is very beautiful.

I was not a fan of how the story was presented. The characters tell their stories to each other, but the authorial voice is telling the reader, not the characters.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
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LibraryThing member ElizabethCromb
A great exploration of the migration difficulties of those trying to enter USA currently and in the past from central and South America through the stories of 3 people linked through one incident.
LibraryThing member novelcommentary
In the Midst of Winter is a novel about three lost souls who come together during a blizzard in January of 2015. When Richard Bowmaster, a NYU professor, accidentally runs into a Lexus driven by a young illegal immigrant, he provides his insurance information and dismisses the mishap, but when Evelyn Ortega shows up at his door, shaken and stuttering, he calls on his downstairs tenant, Lucia, to help him resolve the concern. Once Evelyn reveals her predicament, (the car is her employer's and there is a body in the trunk), these three take on the challenge of trying to help. In the next few days, they all share in the telling of their immigrant stories, and each is a tale of loss and unhappiness. However during this harrowing storm and the quest they undertake, perhaps some kind of happiness can evolve.
This is the first story I've read by this prolific author and perhaps I need to try her famous first novel The House of Spirits, but I was not that impressed with the actual writing except for her ability to weave together a nice plot. Having recently read American Dirt, I was also interested in more descriptions of the journeys that the immigrants suffer in order to try for a better life in a land that is less than welcoming.
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LibraryThing member FBGNewbies
Three people, each a refugee with a back story, meet in New York and have an adventure together. The main events seem rather improbable, but the backstories are very interesting.




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