An English translation of Osorio’s award-winning novel about a woman’s struggle to learn the identity of her parents and the mystery of her birth and adoption during Argentina’s “dirty war.”
In the years after a junta took over Argentina (in 1976), some 30,000 political prisoners “disappeared.” One macabre feature of this dread period was that pregnant prisoners were relatively well-treated up to their delivery—then were killed, their children adopted by high-ranking officials. One such orphan is Luz, whose mother, Liliana, had been part of an underground leftist group. Luz’s adoptive mother, Marianna, had given birth to a stillborn child in the same hospital, on the same night Luz was born. Marianna’s father, the dreaded Colonel Alfonso Dufau, sees the hand of fate in the coincidence and promptly orders that Luz be given to Marianna and the stillborn recorded as Liliana’s. The hospital authorities are bribed to comply, Marianna is never told the truth, and Luz grows up in complete ignorance of her true identity. The only flaw in the Colonel’s plan was Miriam Lopez. A sometime prostitute engaged to one of the Colonel’s henchmen, the childless Miriam was the one who’d originally been promised Liliana’s baby, and was later asked to help care for it (and Liliana) until Marianna (who had gone into a coma after her delivery) was released from the hospital. When Miriam learned that Liliana was to be executed as soon as she returned to prison, she tried to help her escape, but they were caught, Liliana was killed, Miriam fled Argentina, and Luz was raised as Marianna’s daughter. Years later, however, Miriam contacts Luz and tells her the truth. Luz then goes about the complicated process of searching for her father, who is still alive, and telling him the story of her life.
Despite the Dumas-like twists and the hairpin curves of coincidence, a tale narrated with the insistent momentum of a good detective story.