“In the midst of winter, I finally found there was within me an invincible summer.” Albert Camus
“In the Midst of Winter” is an extraordinarily enjoyable novel, beautifully written, about three people brought together for a few days due to a snowstorm. Through a compelling mix of history, mystery, romance and humor, Allende emphasizes the resilience of the human spirit, as her characters transform from their histories of tragedy to their futures of love, hope and humanity.
Lucia is 62 years old, originally from Chile and teaching on a one year contract at New York University’s Center for Latin American Studies. She is living in the basement apartment of Richard Bowmaster’s Brooklyn brownstone. Richard is also a professor at New York University and arranged for Lucia to teach at NYU and to live in the apartment. Lucia is divorced, has a daughter, Daniela in Miami and is secretly in love with Richard Bowmaster.
Richard is Lucia’s boss at NYU. He leads a solitary existence and has rejected Lucia’s advances. When we meet him he is rushing one of his cats to the veterinarian during a blizzard. As he is returning home, he rear ends a Lexus, which is being driven by a Guatemalan refugee, Evelyn. Evelyn works as a nanny and helper for a wealthy family in Brooklyn. She is in the country illegally, driving the Lexus without the boss’s knowledge and is horrified when the accident occurs, refusing any help from Richard. Richard throws his business card in Evelyn’s car as she drives off.
Later in the evening of the accident Evelyn shows up at Richard’s door but is unable to communicate. Richard calls Lucia, saying “A hysterical Latin American woman has invaded my house and I don’t know what to do with her. Maybe you could help.” Thus begins three evenings that the three of them spend together through the snowstorm.
During these days and nights, Evelyn, Lucia and Richard tell each other their stories. Evelyn tells her story of growing up amidst violence and gangs in her home of Guatemala, culminating in her escape and her job working for the wealthy, mysterious and slightly sinister Leroy family.
Lucia tells her story of being raised by her single mother in Chile and seeking asylum in Venezuela when her life is endangered after being accused of being an opposition sympathizer by the government. She meets a man and moves to Canada but ultimately moves back to Chile. While in Chile she married, had a daughter, suffered breast cancer, divorced and had a lover.
Richard had studied political science, specializing in Brazil. He went to Brazil in 1985, fell in love, married and had a child. His entire personal life unraveled through drinking, drugs, womanizing and immense tragedy. He returned to New York to take a teaching position at New York University.
While the three are revealing themselves to each other they are also engaged in an adventure on the snowy roads of New York, trying to figure out what to do with the surprise they found in the trunk of the Lexus. This adventure is intermingled with their stories throughout the novel.
At times you have to suspend belief and reality to go along with the sort of unbelievable adventure Richard, Lucia and Evelyn are experiencing. That said, the stories are engaging and highly relevant in today’s environment, the characters are likeable and sympathetic and the hopefulness and generosity of spirit which the story exudes is a nice change of pace. This book will be released at the end of October and you should read it. You will be able to reserve the book at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking on http://encore.cuyahoga.lib.oh.us/iii/encore/record/C__Rb11269085__Sin%20the%20midst%20of%20winter__P0%2C3__Orightresult__X7?lang=eng&suite=gold or if you prefer the electronic version, click on http://encore.cuyahoga.lib.oh.us/iii/encore/record/C__Rb11276967__Sin%20the%20midst%20of%20winter__P0%2C1__Orightresult__X7?lang=eng&suite=gold