A young woman searches for her long-lost brother in Oaxaca, Mexico, during the Christmas festivities—in a small family saga from four-time novelist Benítez (The Weight of All Things, 2001, etc.).
At 33, Annie Hart Rush has just begun to settle into the confines of her life. Happily married and the mother of two boys, Annie has managed to build a good life for herself after a childhood heavily clouded over with grief. The first blow was the loss of Maggie, her twin sister, more than 20 years ago. Maggie’s death (in a tractor accident) set off a chain reaction of tragedy in the Hart family: Maggie’s father Elmer (who had been driving the tractor) killed himself in a fit of grief not long after the accident, and her older brother Hub, equally depressed, ran away from home at age 17 and was never heard from again. Or so Annie thought, until her mother Flo confesses on her deathbed that she had received postcards from Hub over the years since he left, all from different places and none with a return address. In the last throes of emphysema, Flo begs Annie to try to find Hub and reunite the family—a task made even more urgent by Flo’s will, which leaves the house to Hub. Annie sets off as a kind of private sleuth, partly out of fascination and partly to take her mind off her mother’s death. She’s able to track Hub as far as Oaxaca before the trail runs cold. There, she’s helped in her quest by Joe Cruz, a Berkeley anthropology professor whom she meets at her hotel. Joe has his own family demons (his wife and son died in a fire three years earlier), and Maggie sees him as a sort of kindred soul. Eventually, during the Night of the Radishes (December 23), everything in Maggie’s past and present begins to converge, and she must decide who she is and—more importantly—who she wants to be.
As soap operas go, this is pretty good: a nice mix of family drama, exotic settings, mystery, and psychology.