Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf: Isabel Allende

By Lynn Willoughby

In the Midst of Winter ~ Isabel Allende

There is a huge snowfall in Brooklyn and Professor Richard Bowmaster – a 60 year old human rights scholar, rear ends the car of Evelyn Ortega.  While this is an inconvenience, Bowmaster leaves his contact information and heads home.
Later that evening, however, Evelyn turns up at his home, asking for help.  She is an undocumented nanny from Guatemala who had taken her employer’s car, while he was away, out to get diapers for her charge.  She knows she is in deep trouble.  Now it is Richard who needs help.  He goes to talk to his tenant, Lucia, a lecturer from Chile, who can at least converse with Evelyn.
This is a really interesting exploration of human rights.  While Richard lectures on the subject, he has not lived in a world where it has been an issue.  Lucia and Evelyn have both seen family murdered, suffered rape, loss of home, the terror of illegal immigration – more misery that one should suffer in a lifetime.
While the city is at a standstill, with impassable streets, power outages, buried cars and mailboxes, they hatch a plan to get rid of the damaged car.  Then things get worse.  Richard discovers a body in the trunk!
As their stories unfold, the snow that paralyzes the city becomes a friend.  These three disparate strangers spend time together trying to solve their problem and we learn their histories – sometimes with humour, or with grim brutality, and the cost of politics to humanity.  We also discover their various perspectives on fascinating places – Brooklyn, Brazil, Guatemala, Chile and Canada.
Circumstances unite these three, but their basic humanity creates an ethical challenge.  This translates into real discomfort for the reader as we read almost daily about the very real plight of illegal immigrants around the world.  And that makes for a very good read.
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