Here’s a cozy read as we experience the last of the cold days that make this spring seem like we are still in the midst of winter. Chilean visiting professor, Lucia Maraz hunkers down in her freezing Brooklyn apartment with her beloved chihuahua, as a storm pelts the city. Perhaps she’ll make some soup and ask her landlord, Richard Bowmaster to join them. If she hoped the two of them would become good friends or more, it has not happened, despite the fact that are both single, around the same age, teach at NYU, and have many shared interests. Meanwhile, Richard is making his way home from an emergency veterinary trip for his cat when he has a minor traffic accident. He presents his card to the other driver and assures her that his insurance will pay for the damage. She barely gives him notice as she tries to close the damaged trunk and rushes away. Later that evening the woman appears at his front door. Evelyn Ortega has very little English, and Richard is bewildered. He calls Lucia in hopes of bridging the communication gap, assuming that they both speak Spanish. Lucia and Richard learn that Evelyn has borrowed the car from her employers without permission and that she is afraid of returning it damaged; she is an undocumented refugee from Guatemala, and the car’s owner is a dangerous man. It’s decided that there’s nothing else to do but bunk down at Richard’s for the night, considering the raging storm. Little do they know that the three will be joined for more than one night and by Evelyn’s morning revelation: that there is a dead body in the car’s trunk.
The adventure that Lucia, Richard, and Evelyn undertake changes each of them and is told along with flashbacks of Evelyn’s life and desperate flight from the gangs of Guatemala and the backstories of Lucia and Richard. Issues of human rights, personal trauma, and the plight of refugees are sobering themes softened by the shared humanity of Allende’s characters.
Allende’s descriptions are gorgeous and mesmerizing. Her prose sparkles with magic and humor and is sure to warm you.