In her debut, Martins offers the warm story of a woman’s return to the homeland she left as a child.
Rita Ray doesn’t care for personal relationships. She’s single, 37 years old, with a lucrative banking career in Manhattan after a modest upbringing in Florida. Getting ahead in the business world is her sole focus, and she adopts a cold, distant manner to keep everyone, even family, at arm’s length. But when her mother, Maia, dies unexpectedly, Rita must confront the difficult past that closed her off emotionally. When Rita was 10, Maia suddenly uprooted her from their home in Brazil and brought her to the United States. Though Maia worked hard to create a better life for them both, their close relationship deteriorated because Maia refused to discuss their former life and the circumstances that forced her to flee from Brazil with Rita. After losing her mother without regaining the closeness they once shared, Rita plans a visit to Rio de Janeiro to learn more about her family and to reconnect with Maia’s dear friend Elisabete. In the beautiful, vibrant city, long-suppressed memories rush back to Rita—her heart thaws as she begins to appreciate the hard life Maia lived and the difficult choices she made with her daughter’s well-being in mind. Rita’s rediscovery of Brazil and her growing understanding of her mother provide the novel’s greatest pleasures, despite the sometimes melodramatic flashbacks. Immigration challenges and a compelling family dynamic would be absorbing enough without the over-the-top villainy of the men in their past. In Rio, Rita also meets Gabriel, a kind and handsome ex-lawyer turned health-food chef, who offers himself as her tour guide. The city opens up in its tropic splendor on the tours provided by Gabriel and Elisabete; its history and culture are enchanting. Throughout the often sensationalized plot, Rita—more than a tourist, but not a local—also explains the city’s lively customs, which flow naturally from the narration. Sun, fun and revelations in Rio provide Rita with a much-needed sense of place in the world her mother made for her.
A colorful story of personal growth that ripens in Rio.