FIRST LOVE by Violeta Barrett


Just Once in a Lifetime: A Memoir
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A memoir from Barrett detailing the “agony and ecstasy” of love, documented through letters.

As a young, recently separated career woman in 1956, Barrett plans a vacation to Mexico to escape from her day-to-day life on Wall Street. Traveling alone, she is met by her tour guide, Jorge, in Mexico City and taken to the Hotel Del Prado to meet with the rest of the tour group for several excursions. Though Jorge is married with children, the two fall in love—ill-fated love, since divorce is impossible in the Catholic Church. Jorge’s letters and the competent illustrations of his postcards—which the author includes here—have a transporting effect, conveying the beauty of Mexico and Mexican culture but also the experience of being desperately in love while separated by distance and familial and religious obligations. The narrative speedily breezes through the romance and trip, with the writing evoking a vacation diary—stretching out at first with descriptions of a bullfight in Mexico City, a boat ride across Lake Patzcuaro and a night of dancing at the Casanova night club in Cuernevaca, then finishing all too quickly. Despite Jorge’s wife uncovering the affair eventually, Barrett never explores the morality of the situation, saying only, “I never questioned the right or wrong of it.” Less than a fifth of the book is narration, with the bulk made up of the 76 letters the author receives from Jorge over several years following her trip, letters that alternate between endless affirmations of his love and effusive pleadings for reassurance. Repetitive at times—perhaps those three little words can be said too much—Jorge does express some touching sentiments: “All the females that I see have something that reminds me of you...I see only you in everyone.” The book tells a story of endless love that comes but “solamente una vez en la vida,” and leaves the reader wanting more.

A memoir that has the courage to believe in eternal love, despite the pain.

Pub Date: Feb. 3rd, 2011
ISBN: 978-1450279949
Page count: 207pp
Program: Kirkus Indie
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