The story of a quest of sorts, as a high school student in Chávez's Venezuela tries to make sense of love and life—and also tries desperately to leave a country for which she has no affection.
In this deftly and idiomatically translated novel, Eugenia Blanc has enrolled in a special course to complete her high school education, but she finds it boring and irrelevant, especially because her one desire is to locate Laurent Blanc, her paternal grandfather, who's “retreat[ed] to the Andes”; she thinks his French origin might give her the possibility of moving to France and thus away from her estranged parents, her brother’s suicide, and Venezuela’s social and political problems. Luis Tévez, a charismatic (and gorgeous) fellow student, plans to visit a friend and offers to take her on this quest, and along the way they wind up stealing 24 bottles of Johnny Walker Blue Label, a drink that pervades the narrative, serving as a social lubricant, an excuse to get drunk or have sex, a sacrament for a wedding, and even a liquid to refill an empty radiator. They inadvertently take along another passenger, Vadier Hernández, whose drugged and drunken irreverence both expresses and disguises his joie de vivre. Eugenia becomes somewhat obsessed with Luis, and she finds herself extremely attracted to him despite his severe mood swings. Eugenia’s quest for her grandfather eventually becomes less important to her when she recovers a long letter from her estranged father that helps her make some sense of her life. Several days after her return from her journey, she as well as the reader receives a shock regarding Luis. Eventually, in an epilogue, we learn of the importance of the intoxicating memories of that indelible journey she took as a teenager.
Packs a punch on many levels: personal, political, and even mythic.