Three lifelong friends journey from 1960s Lima, Peru, to Holland in this structurally inventive Spanish-language debut novel.
The three women here hail from disparate socioeconomic backgrounds and exemplify the novel’s epigraph: “Latin American women are like their nations, some self-destruct, others are destroyed and a few survive.” Malucha comes from a broken—and violent—home; her mother had to work in a factory to support them. Maniro, whose mother died giving birth to her, is biracial. And Magnolia’s father was disinherited for marrying beneath him. Despite their differences, the friends think of each other as sisters. Not long after graduating college, they find themselves in Holland, where they marry Dutch men and move into the upper echelons of society. Two have children, two divorce, and one is widowed, overcoming depression in record time. Early chapters make use of the trio’s multilingualism, sprinkling in conversation in English, French, Italian and Dutch. Translations into Spanish are given in footnotes, as are explanations of Peruvian idioms—horticultural, culinary, etc.—though comprehension won’t suffer much if readers choose to skip them. For better or worse, the dialogue—which is most of the book—is generally as banal as real speech; there’s little spark in this novel’s attempt at realism. The novel’s most imaginative aspect is its organization. This multimedia e-book can be read in two ways: In the traditional manner, from beginning to end, or by character: Separate lists indicate the sequences in which various chapters are to be read for each woman. Also appealing throughout the work are several links to music, located on SoundCloud, that accompany the narrative.
An adventurously presented story that doesn’t quite have the adventure to match.