Sunday, September 30, 2018


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In the Midst of Winter, Isabel Allende, Atria Books, 2017, 340 pp (translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Amanda Hopkinson)
Isabel Allende's latest novel was a pick for my One Book At A Time reading group. I always love her novels and this was no exception.
Three people are brought together during a blizzard in Brooklyn due to an automobile accident. The only things they have in common are Central/South America and trauma due to loss.

Richard, a repressed professor, plows into a car driven by undocumented immigrant Evelyn. A dead body in the trunk sends Evelyn to seek Richard's help. Lucia, a tenant in Richard's house is called in by him to assist in calming Evelyn.

As the three set out in the snow and wind on a desperate scheme to deal with Evelyn's dead employer, their back stories come to light. All of them spent the 1970s in the politically turbulent times that plagued many Central and South American countries. Each one suffered in horrendous ways.

Some reading group members complained about the shifts in time and location throughout the novel. Sorry to be cranky but it wasn't that hard to follow. One just had to pay attention and remember a few extra names. I found the back stories even more compelling than the current one. Allende creates great suspense and I was invested in each character because of the way she constructed her story.

I admire how this author has kept moving her novels along towards the present day. In her body of work she has put the historical events of the lower Americas' countries in terms of personal stories while showing how North America has become so diverse. Instead of click bait about immigration disasters and walls, she has taught me about the ways in which colonialism and our government's interference with Central and South American politics brought us to where we are today.

I also love her unique blend of romance, magic and human connection, always combined with strong female characters in the forefront of her stories. Despite all, people do take care of each other in ways we don't always recognize, they do sometimes recover from trauma, and they do find redemption.

By the way, the title of this novel is a quote from Albert Camus: "In the midst of winter, I finally found there was within me an invincible summer." The wonders of reading. I had finished reading Camus, A Romance just eleven days earlier. Gave me a chill in the midst of the last week of summer!

(In the Midst of Winter is now out in paperback and is available by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)


  1. We read The Japanese Lover for our book group a few months ago and none of us were crazy about it but, I do like the sound of this one Kay.

    1. I don't know how many of her books you have read. She has changed in certain ways over the years. Since I have read almost all of them, I am down with the changes. I liked The Japanese Lover too because I felt she showed that people are complicated.

  2. Replies
    1. No problem. I always remember your name because it is in your blog name. I have to keep a list of all the blogs I follow with the blogger's name so I don't get mixed up myself!

  3. I've read several Allende books but not this one, and I should if for no other reason than that the title comes from one of my favorite quotes. I've never been disappointed by one of her books and I suspect this one will not disappoint either.

  4. I like the premise of this one. She finds a dead body in the trunk - after the accident? Oh my. I like how they all have been thru stuff in the 70s from these countries & their lives cross paths from this accident. Excellent. Will put it the list on from the library.

    1. She does! I liked the same things you predict you will. Awaiting your review, patiently of course.

  5. This one sounds good but I still have many more from her to go through. I'll put the Spanish title on my TBR.