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In the Midst of Winter

Review

In the Midst of Winter

Isabel Allende, like any prolific talented writer with a long career, has themes that are very meaningful to her, and she explores them in book after book. Politics, family, generational pride and history, human rights and, of course, passion and love are some of these pertinent topics. IN THE MIDST OF WINTER is another example of the beautiful prose of this remarkable strong woman, activist and writer whose every tome seems to only deepen our respect for her talent and wisdom.

This is a time travel novel that slips back and forth between very specific places and periods, and weaves together a compelling story of present-day Brooklyn, Guatemala in the near past, and Chile and Brazil in the tumultuous 1970s. In Brooklyn, Lucia Maraz deals with a blizzard, a cold basement apartment, and a landlord who is also her boss at NYU and on whom she has a little crush. Visiting professor Lucia ends up helping Richard Bowmaster, the boss, when an undocumented woman from Guatemala gets into a fender bender with him. Evelyn Ortega confides in them about her personal situation and fears that this small accident could contain bigger consequences for her.

"Immigrants and refugees are very much on our minds these days as we all fight to ensure their freedoms and rights. IN THE MIDST OF WINTER brings those important topics to the forefront in a story for the ages..."

As the three of them talk out the situation, they begin to unleash some dark secrets on each other. It is these secrets that lead them to admit that each has suffered loss through political injustice, and that love as well as great despair has been dealt out to them as a result of their experiences. Each character has regrets, fears and a connection to a past where things were not fair and equal. Their friendships with each other are formed on that snowy day in the midst of a very New York–type intersection of their lives.

Each character carries a weight that feels finely wrought. The details they divulge, the attention Allende gives their strife (and her own, including the death of her father, Salvador Allende, in the narrative), and their fears are deep and thoughtful, providing an integrative storyline that pulls the reader in deeper and deeper as more and more details are divulged. The story is complicated and messy --- there are no easy answers or endings to any of their struggles. And yet, there is that overwhelmingly positive sense that simply by sharing your own tale and then considering someone else’s as well, we could all come to a greater understanding and stop the partisan destruction that misunderstandings create in this age of change. It is almost a parable for this time in history --- and Allende knows, from personal experience, that love and justice, and listening and understanding, really are the answers to the world’s problems.

Immigrants and refugees are very much on our minds these days as we all fight to ensure their freedoms and rights. IN THE MIDST OF WINTER brings those important topics to the forefront in a story for the ages --- a timeless tale of coming together that hopefully will shine a light on how best we can work together in the real world, in real time, to improve everyone’s future prospects. Allende is poetic, filling her book with a light and savory prose that belies its intense political undertones and thus makes it a very readable story.

Allende is on a big book tour for this novel, and I strongly suggest checking out her website for the details. Thank her for this beautiful work. I hope that all readers find some wisdom in the story that they can take to heart in these difficult times. I certainly did.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on November 3, 2017

In the Midst of Winter
by Isabel Allende

  • Publication Date: October 31, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • ISBN-10: 150117813X
  • ISBN-13: 9781501178139