A vivid if overwrought portrait of another emotionally fragile, sensitive young woman who's saved from self- destructiveand often plain dumbbehavior by finding herself. In settings as disparate as Paris, New York City, and Marin county, the Boston-born Espinosa (Dark Plums, 1995, not reviewed) tells the story of Rosa, a young American woman who, in 1962, flees to Paris ``after a terrible year inside an institution with pastel walls . . . to get away from the accusing, interrogating voices, the turmoil of the past.'' Depressed and sick, she moves in with Antonio, a Chilean writer who not only nurses her but saves her from yet another breakdown. Antonio, 15 years older than Rosa and a mass of contradictory emotions, has never duplicated the critical success of his first novel, published in Chile, and now, bitter and alienated, supports himself by doing odd menial jobs and occasional writing; he is also, except when he's in ``one of his crazy, drunken, nasty moods,'' remarkably intuitive. It's this intuition that keeps Rosa in a relationship that almost immediately becomes sadomasochistic and destructive. The two marry when Rosa discovers she's pregnant; a baby, Isabel, is born; and soon Antonio, who relies on Rosa and her wealthy family for money, is drinking to excess, having affairs, beating and humiliating Rosa, even seducing her own mother when she visits Paris. Finally, the couple moves to the US, where Antonio's dissatisfactions and Rosa's unresolved problems with her family only exacerbate the relationship. A move to California follows, and though the marriage deteriorates even further, Rosa, determined to give Isabel a better life, discovers an inner strength and ambitionthough it's too late for poor Antonio. A powerfully written tale of very messy lives, with all their sordid goings-on spotlightedbut with no shading for relief or credibility.
Read full book review >