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In the Midst of Winter: A Novel by Isabel…
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In the Midst of Winter: A Novel

by Isabel Allende

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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. ( )
  GirlWellRead | Aug 13, 2018 |
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. ( )
  N.W.Moors | Jul 25, 2018 |
A bit dull didn’t finish it. ( )
  ramrak | Jul 5, 2018 |
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. ( )
  brangwinn | Apr 29, 2018 |
‘In the Midst of Winter’ by Isabel Allende is the story of three ordinary-looking people, people you would not glance at if you passed by them in the street, and their extra-ordinary lives. Each has faced loss and trauma, each feels isolated, lonely. Laced throughout this deceptive novel are themes of dislocation, grief, human trafficking and the courage to free oneself of these bonds. Set in modern-day Brooklyn and Guatemala, and 1970s Chile and Brazil, it is the story of people relocated thousands of miles away from family to new countries with strange languages and customs where against the odds they must begin a new life.
Richard, Lucia and Evelyn are thrown together in Brooklyn, New York, during a momentous snowstorm. Evelyn, a young illegal immigrant from Guatemala, borrows her employer’s car and in the storm crashes into Richard. Richard is in his sixties, a loner, aesthete and reformed alcoholic, he lives his life according to routine. But when the car crash upsets his rigid ordered life, he is forced to halt his almost OCD existence and do unpredictable, often rash, things. When Evelyn turns up on his doorstep, hours after the crash, he is unable to understand her Spanish and asks Lucia, university colleague and tenant of the basement flat of his freezing cold Brooklyn brownstone, to come upstairs and help him with the hysterical girl.
The reason for Evelyn’s hysteria becomes clear the next morning. What they choose to do next constitutes ‘In the Midst of Winter’. It is a road trip with a difference as the trio set off in convoy in two cars, into a snowstorm, with a task to complete. Their choice dominates the book and, though I found it well-meaning, it seemed emotional and impractical. The journey is the technique by which Allende tells their stories; each is an unburdening, a confession of their guilt, shame, offences and regrets. I lost myself in each of these stories and came back to the modern day strand with a clunk, as I remembered the choice these three people made. It feels surrealistic, as if their horrific ‘problem’ [the reason for the road trip] doesn’t exist. The writing is beautiful, particularly the description of snow, though the stories of abuse are harrowing.
Essentially Allende tells two stories – the accident; and the historical stories of Richard, Lucia and Evelyn. They start as strangers and by the end of the trip they have shared more than a car, their experience bonds them together and shows them a life different from their own. The snowstorm has a double effect. It acts as a vacuum in which the outside world has zero presence, in which these three strangers must react to their discovery and decide what action to take. Perhaps this explains their out-of-the-real-world decision. It also focuses a magnifying glass on each individual as they confess their story, sometimes for the first time, offering themselves up to the other two strangers for rejection or redemption. In the first half I got the backstories of Lucia and Evelyn confused, but as the story went on this became clearer.
This is an unusual story exploring how ordinary people are affected by legal and illegal immigration from South America to the United States, of gang violence, trafficking and exploitation, of the American immigration rules, and of the perils of living outside the law. Which is a lot to handle in one novel. But most of all, it is the story of three people and how they struggle to overcome the challenges which life presents to them, finding friendship at the end.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | Apr 12, 2018 |
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Epigraph
Au milieu de l'hiver, j'apprenais enfin qu'il y avait en moi un ete invincible.
- - Albert Camus
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To Roger Cukras, for unexpected love
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At the end of December 2015 winter had not yet reached Brooklyn.
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"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."--… (more)

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