I read this book in Spanish, but I’ll review it here in English, because it’s the language I’m more comfortable with and the one the rest of my blog is in. Anyway, Más allá del invierno (English title: In the Midst of Winter) tells the stories of three relative strangers – the Chilean Lucía, Guatemalan indocumentada Evelyn, and white American Richard – after a car accident in cold-snap-ridden Brooklyn brings them together and forces them into a less-than-legal expedition.
I thought the book was alright, but something about it just didn’t hold together for me. The majority of the book consists of flashbacks, of the defining events in Lucía, Richard and Evelyn’s lives before they crossed paths. Some of these chapters were quite interesting and evocative (although I’ll admit I found Lucía and Evelyn’s stories a lot more sympathetic than Richard’s), but the sheer volume of them left the “main story” – the events in the present day – somewhat thin and insubstantial. As well, sometimes the story felt a bit more like a chronicle (“this happened, then this, then this…”) as opposed to the more compelling, causative kind of narrative that I’m used to (“this happened because of this, so then this happened which caused this…”). Often, there wasn’t a lot driving me to keep turning the page.
Nonetheless, in Evelyn’s chapters the book relays an enlightening story about what might drive a young woman to flee Central America and arrive irregularly in the United States, what that journey might be like, and what her experience might be once she arrives. This might be of interest to some people, and I don’t think it was badly done. Lucía’s past involves fleeing the dictatorship in Chile, and was also pretty well-written, although it’s far from the first time Allende has written about that period (Of Love and Shadows and her memoir My Invented Country also talk about dictatorship-era Chile, and other books too in smaller parts). Still, that plotline might also appeal.
Overall the book wasn’t bad, but I didn’t think it was great, either. Probably a two-star (out of five) book for me.