Book reviews by D.G. Kaye
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Sunday Book Review – In The Midst of Winter – Isabel Allende

My Sunday Book Review on Isabel Allende’s In The Midst of Winter is a little differently rated than most of the books I share on my reviews because I could only give it 3 1/2 stars. At over 350 pages, I kept waiting for something exciting to happen but I found the plot fell flat and was scattered and disappointing – too much character backstory and not enough plot.

 

 

 

Blurb:

New York Times and worldwide bestselling author Isabel Allende returns with a sweeping novel that journeys from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil. 

An instant New York Times bestseller, In the Midst of Winter is about three very different people who are brought together in a mesmerizing story that offers “a timely message about immigration and the meaning of home” (People).

During the biggest Brooklyn snowstorm in living memory, Richard Bowmaster, a lonely university professor in his sixties, hits the car of Evelyn Ortega, a young undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, and what at first seems an inconvenience takes a more serious turn when Evelyn comes to his house, seeking help. At a loss, the professor asks his tenant, Lucia Maraz, a fellow academic from Chile, for her advice.

As these three lives intertwine, each will discover truths about how they have been shaped by the tragedies they witnessed, and Richard and Lucia will find unexpected, long overdue love. Allende returns here to themes that have propelled some of her finest work: political injustice, the art of survival, and the essential nature of—and our need for—love.

 

My 3 1/2 Star Review:

As a fan of Allende’s writing, I found this book a bit disappointing. I also found the blurb to be a bit misleading. Yes, the story goes into the past of each of the three main characters to demonstrate what they experienced in their lives, helping to shape their characters, but I found their backstories could have been stories for a book in themselves and didn’t quite mesh with the actual story going on involving these characters. It’s by far not a ‘sweeping novel’. Where the blurb speaks of political injustice, that pertains more to Evelyn’s and Lucia’s lives in the past before coming to America, but those facts aren’t what the story is about, just about what shapes their characters. I think the story juts off course throughout the book.

The story begins with Lucia an academic colleague of Richard’s who is originally from Chile and rents a basement apartment from Richard while he lives upstairs. Richard comes off as a lonely, grumpy guy who at first isn’t very friendly toward Lucia until he gets into a car accident on a blizzardy day, banging into Evelyn, an undocumented young woman from Guatamala who worked as a nanny for a mobster, his wife Cheryl and their handicapped child. Evelyn felt compelled to run to the store despite the storm to get diapers for the young boy, while Cheryl slept and the husband was out of town, so she took the mobster’s car for the short run then Richard banged into her. And this is where the intended story plot was to grow from when they discovered a dead body in the trunk.

The story continues on with Richard asking Lucia for help to take in Evelyn because she was too scared to go back home. This book didn’t turn into a murder mystery investigation as it suggested it should, rather a mission to get rid of the body and help Evelyn in doing so, and in doing so we’re taken into the history of each character, back and forth into the present. The romance that finally happened near the end of the book between Lucia and Richard felt awkward, and the ending left no impact. This wasn’t Allende’s finest work by far, IMHO.

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D.G. Kaye is a nonfiction/memoir writer, who writes from her own life experiences and self-medicates with a daily dose of humor.

33 Comments

  • Norah Colvin

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this book, Debby. It’s a frustrating feeling, I’ve found, wading through a book waiting for something to happen and nothing does. Your review helps me decide what to, or not to, read next. 🙂

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Norah. Although my reviews are my opinions, others may not agree, but it was interesting to see some of the other reviews in line with mine too. 🙂

  • Hilary

    Hi Debby – I guess we’d learn a lot about the geography of the countries, as too the plight of refugees … as well as the professional peoples involved and then their interactions. Interesting to read your review – thank you … cheers Hilary

  • Jacqui Murray

    Interesting premise. Character-driven I suspect so no wonder it didn’t dig into a reasonable way of getting rid of the body (like return it to the mobster?). It does sound complicated. I tend toward much simpler reads!

  • sally Cronin

    Thanks Debby.. probably won’t add to my toppling TBR.. perhaps it is my age but I get frustrated with some books that wallow… and never seem to go anywhere.. probably her publisher wanting her to write to a formula.. but disappointing.. ♥

    • dgkaye

      Could be Sal. Allende is a beautiful writer, and this book doesn’t take away from her writing, it’s more about cohesiveness to story. And a blurb should focus on the plot of the story more than sub plots. 🙂 <3

    • dgkaye

      Could be Sal. Anyone who has read Allende’s books, know what a beautiful writer she is. This one just missed the mark. Not every book can be a best seller – even for the famous. 🙂 <3

  • Balroop Singh

    I like your honest review about this book Deb…. After all all books can’t be “the best.” I find such books easy to review, as you can say a lot! Sometimes misleading reviews that don’t match the expectations of the reader really put me off! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Balroop. I think it’s more the blurb that misleads the reader into what to expect from storyline. As a person who enjoys reading and learning about politically challenged people, I was drawn to the book for that subject matter as the blurb suggested, but that turned out to be the backstory. 🙂

  • Christoph Fischer

    Thanks for this insightful and balanced review. Reading the blurb it would have instantly appealed to me but it sounds I would be slightly disappointed, too. I’m still curious, though.

    • dgkaye

      It’s well written, just a bit discombobulated with plot. Yes, it’s my opinion and I don’t urge anyone not to read. I’d be interested in your take if you ever read it. 🙂 <3

    • dgkaye

      No worries Robbie. It’s a review and my opinion. My reviews aren’t to promote or dissuade, but I do know reviews carry weight. With a Kindle full of must reads I’m sure you have a lengthy reading list 🙂

    • dgkaye

      Sorry for the honesty Robbie, lol. Of course, it’s just my opinion. But with so many choice books awaiting you on your Kindle, I completely get it. 🙂

  • Olga Núñez Miret

    I’m also a fan of Isabel Allende, but haven’t read any of her recent books, and I’ve noticed she’s just published a new one… The background stories sound interesting, but I agree with you and the comments, not every book can be great, even when written by somebody with a proven track. Thanks for the review, Debby.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Olga. Also, trad published authors have deadlines and changes they see fit for books too, sometimes interfering with writer’s intent. I would have liked to seen maybe 2 other books with the story continued each on the lives of Evelyn and Lucia. 🙂

  • Annika Perry

    Debby, she is also one of my favourite writers and the blurb sounds compelling. Sad to read that it didn’t deliver – from such an experienced and excellent writer the meandering nature of the book is incomprehensible.

    • dgkaye

      Hi Aspasia! Yes, I’m sorry. I do love her books, but this one didn’t hit the mark for me. I’ll be curious to hear your take should you read it. 🙂

  • Aspasia

    It might be a while, but I’ll try to let you know 🙂 It’s also kind of reassuring that even the best writers can be off their game sometimes.

  • Michelle James

    It’s so frustrating when a book falls so short of expectations. When there are so many really good books waiting for me to read, I just get so disappointed when I’ve spent the time to read one that didn’t come up to expectations. A great, honest review, Debby. ❤️🤗❤️

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Michelle. I don’t like to review a book that isn’t at least 4 stars. Because I do enjoy her writing, I was expecting another 5 star read and somehow just felt disappointed. Honest I guess 🙂 <3

  • Deborah Jay

    Interesting review Deb – it sounds like the book has all the requisite ingredients for its genre, but doesn’t go where it should.
    Just goes to show that being a NYT best seller doesn’t mean you always get it right!

    • dgkaye

      That was why I shared a review less than 4 stars. It could happen to the best of us. Also, who knows what the publisher had to do with it? Short deadline, taking liberties to change with their editor? I just felt disappointed as the book drew nearer to the end I could see it wasn’t going where I thought it should. Maybe it’s just the writer in me, lol. But unsurprisingly, when I read some other reviews, the plot seemed to be the same issue with many. 🙂

  • Liesbet

    Quite disappointing, I can imagine. It appears like the blurb tries to pack too much into one book (or the entire plot does), foregoing what it’s really about and focusing on areas/pasts that don’t matter much, like you point out. Thanks for this honest review, Debby!

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