2 Following


The novel often felt like a political diatribe that used every progressive issue to make the point.

In the Midst of Winter: A Novel - Isabel Allende

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.