"While the story ends with a whimper, the finely tuned human drama and subversion of the happily-ever-after drive home the setup's inherent sadness." - Publishers Weekly.
"A terse, almost stark departure from the lyrical Cellophane, this intelligent novel should bring new readers to Arana's work. Highly recommended for all academic and public library fiction collections." - Library Journal.
"Starred Review. ... Arana's novel of taboo passion, tragic misperception, and life's hidden dimensions is as shattering as it is seductive." - Booklist.
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Lima Nights by Marie Arana
A sensory narrative about a love-affair and its impact on friends and family, this book submerges the reader in color, aroma, heat and light. It's tropical heat at every level. I felt like I was back in Lima myself, wandering among colonial houses reeking of past wealth, jungle scents, and Latin spices.
The book was a wonderful love story that drew you in from the very beginning. I found it to be well written, descriptive without being too wordy. The characters came alive on the pages. You could feel all the emotions, as if you were experiencing them yourself. The people in the book seemed like everyday people. Smart, strong, determined and very flawed, as all of us are. I thought it was a really good book and I could not put it down. I really enjoyed the read.
Lima in 1986 is a pluralistic society of race, economics and social class. Carlos Bluhm, white, married and father of two sons, comes from money and lives in a mansion. Maria Fernandez, a marginalized member of the city is a Peruvian with dark-skin who lives in the slums. She struggles to survive by working two jobs. At night, Maria works in a tango bar, where she is hired to dance with the male customers. The salacious dance club is in a seedy section of the city and Carlos happens to be there one night when Maria is working. After meeting Maria he becomes obsessed with a monomaniac drive to be with her. He even goes so far as to make a comparative checklist to weigh pros and cons between Maria and his wife. The game begins as Carlos wonders what can he be thinking? In his mind he knows they are diametrically opposed in all ways.
My favorite character was Maria who demonstrated a vivacious spirit and tenacious will, with a personality full of contradictions; complex yet simple, young yet wise, childlike yet mature, poor yet rich.
This book had me flipping pages frantically expecting a great finish, as the author crafted increasing suspense. As the story ended, I felt like I ran into a brick wall. Lima Nights is a wonderful sensual love story depicting racial and class prejudice and societys intolerance. Aranas obsessive lovers, have an allure and chemistry that will steam glass with their passion.
Feverish to flagging
I started reading this book when I had a cold and was slightly feverish. Lima Nights
was an appropriate choice as the pace in the first part of the novel is also slightly feverish. I found myself appalled and attracted to Bluhm, the older husband who sees Maria at the bar/dance club called Lima Nights one evening. They dance the tango and she slips a note into his jacket pocket. Later, he sees her working at the grocery store and becomes obsessed with her despite the fact that she is only 13, younger than his youngest son. So begins their attraction and relationship. I didn't like him for cheating on his wife. I didn't like him for pursuing a relationship with a poor young girl. I didn't like Maria, though I did not blame her for trying to better her situation. And yet, I couldn't put the book down.
The second section, which takes place 20 years into their relationship, is more slow-paced. We don't know the characters well, as mirrored in the fact that they don't know one another despite having been together for 20 years under the same roof. Bluhm has let his family go for Maria while Maria clings to a false sense of security that living under Bluhm's roof seems to provide. The mix of fighting, voodoo and even some psychotherapy is still not a substitute for the shallow character development, which is ultimately the authors point. The characters are as stagnant as their relationship.
The first half of the book was much more interesting, albeit disturbing, than the second half. Regardless of the flaws, the story was still compelling enough to finish. I wanted to know how it all worked out, though seemingly there couldn't be a happy union between "a chicken and a goose", two very different characters who had only a tenuous love and flagging sexual desire to keep them together.
What begins as a story of infatuation and promise of new love between Carlos and Maria turns into a melancholy saga of lost family ties and misguided dreams.
Clean poetic prose and rich flavorful descriptions of modern day Lima center around a lovely old mansion that has been in Carlos' family for generations. The house becomes a symbol of all things held dear to those in Carlos' family including his wife, mother and sons.
The class and culture disparity between Carlos and Maria sets a tone of tension, leading them to a series of unfortunate events and ultimately sealing their fates.
Carlos' three close friends, Willy, Marco and Oscar provide a sorely needed dose of reality and banter to a story that left me feeling empty and sad at the conclusion.
Not a Happily Ever After Lima Nights
starts out as a very passionate love story and ends in complete turmoil. Readers looking for a "happily ever after" will not find it here. I continuously wished I could understand the characters more fully. Arana would repeatedly brush the questions I had about what was motivating the main characters; however, she would only partially answer them - always leaving the reader to draw his/her own conclusions.
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