Richman explores the story of two couples whose lives touch in unexpected ways.
When Octavio met Salome, she was a beautiful schoolgirl with thick dark tresses and the most beautiful face he had ever seen. Every day Octavio, a college student and struggling poet, schemed to come up with ploys to meet the young girl, finally settling on using the poems of one of Chile’s masters to capture her heart. Years later, Octavio is a famous, though reluctant, actor, whose political participation has put him, his children and, worst of all, his beautiful Salome, in danger. Meanwhile, across the ocean, another drama is playing out in the form of a young and extremely poor Finnish family that is barely surviving during the dark days of World War II. The family, three young boys, a beautiful mother and a husband recently returned wounded from the fighting, struggles to provide sustenance for its members. Soon, the woman finds she is pregnant and gives birth to a tiny, perfect blonde daughter who captures her heart. But her husband, bitter that he is no longer the man he once was, makes a heartbreaking decision that alters all of their lives and leads his baby daughter through an unanticipated journey to Sweden. Richman develops strong characters but heaps so much misery and unhappiness upon the ones she devises that readers may often feel besieged with their situations and despair. Her strongest passages take place in Finland and in the early days of the lives of two of her characters—Samuel and Kaija—but the author tends to repeat herself a great deal, hauling readers through the same scenes told from the same character’s point of view. The author's strengths include her beautiful, evocative language and sense of place. Chile, Finland and Sweden all come alive through Richman’s adept prose.
Wonderful in places, but sometimes more of a downer than many readers may bargain for; Richman’s latest could have withstood some judicious pruning without losing its rhythm.