Not one of Allende’s best – Too Much Going On. Awarded 3 stars on Goodreads.
Isabel Allende is one of my favorite authors but I don’t think this is one of her best novels. Usually I’m struck repeatedly by the beauty of how she puts words together. And while there were a few places where that happened in this book, most of it read like a work from a more standard writer. But that wasn’t my main problem was this one. My larger issue was that the book did not seem to have a clear focus — as though the author was not sure which story she wanted to tell.
The book centers on three main characters.
• Richard is an aging professor, an alcoholic, and a man who has walled himself off from life, in response to deep guilt and trauma.
• Lucia, a Chilean-born academic who is temporarily renting a room in Richard’s Brooklyn brownstone, is also working to come to terms with the brutality her family suffered under Chile’s continually shifting political realities.
• Evelyn is a young Guatemalan immigrant, without papers, working in NY as an underpaid aide to a disabled child. She too was the victim of a brutal politically-motivated crime, back in her native country.
A harsh snowstorm places these three people together squarely in the middle of a murder mystery. And on top of that, the book delves into in a variety of unrelated themes, including domestic violence, human trafficking, mature love, depression, and the mystical beliefs that run through so much of South American culture. Plus, there are the back stories of the three main characters that must be unveiled. A lot to include, right?
On the plus side, a lot happens so the book so it keeps moving along. And each character’s story is interesting. In fact, it’s all interesting. I guess I just think, in this case, less would have been more.