Monday, January 19, 2009

Marie Arana and Lima Nights

Another good book alert! I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Marie Arana speak at a Book Expo in Washington a few years ago and snapped up an autographed copy of her first fiction Cellophane. It's still sitting, unread, behind my desk at work. What happens is, when I know I own the book and am not pressured to finish it, I just let it languish for "when I retire." That's a laugh! So when her second novel came out to great reviews I figured I should get on it and I'm so pleased that I did. If I had to offer you a "read alike" I'd say it would Isabel Allende.

Lima Nights is a beautiful, haunting read and a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. I actually thought I could see a bit of Othello there. It's a tale of extreme cultural divides and the difficulties of breaking through. It's a love story in which, if the two characters could just be left alone they might actually make it, but the outside world loves to intervene to squelch a cross cultural relationship. Arana, who lives part of the year in her native Lima, Peru, brings the city to life in her descriptions of the horrific slum from which the lovely Maria Fernandez comes each evening to entice wealthy men at the tango bar where she dances, supporting her family and dreaming of a better life.

Carlos Bluhm, an ordinary man, husband, father, son, lives a traditional life in every way until the night he catches Maria's eye, shares a dance and is transformed into an erotically crazed, chance-taking man unwilling to be confined by society's mores or the disapproval of his friends. As Carlos plots the seduction of the young Maria, some 25 years his junior, she in turn, recognizes a chance of a lifetime, and makes a conscious decision to give this man all the love and care he craves in exchange for a home and security.

As the old song says, sometimes an affair is just too hot not to cool off. After 20 years together familiarity has bred some contempt. A jealous friend of Maria's, thrown over by her own long-time lover, plants seeds of doubt, Iago style, encouraging Maria to push for a permanent commitment just as Bluhm's friends begin questioning his loyalty to Maria, creating a perfect storm of misunderstanding. Really, yesterday I could barely put this book down, even for the pre-inaugural events!


Anonymous said...

I just finished Lima Nights yesterday! What a great book! I, too, could not put it down.

Sallyb said...

Seems like we're always right on the same wave length. Do you have esp??