Excerpt from In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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In the Midst of Winter

by Isabel Allende

In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende X
In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2017, 352 pages
    Sep 2018, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Natalie Vaynberg
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Print Excerpt

Richard was afraid the cloud of anxiety that often enveloped him was closing in again. Whenever it appeared, he took his pulse and either could not find one or discovered it was racing. In the past he had suffered from panic attacks, which were so similar to heart attacks that he ended up in the hospital, but in recent years they had not returned, thanks to the green pills and because he had learned to control them. He focused on visualizing the black cloud above his head being pierced by powerful spears of light, like the divine rays in religious pictures. Thanks to that image and some breathing exercises, he would manage to disperse the cloud, but this time there was no need to have recourse to that technique because he soon accepted the novelty of his situation. He saw himself from afar, as if in a film where he was not the protagonist but a spectator.

For years now he had lived in a perfectly controlled environment where there were no surprises or upheavals, and yet he had not completely forgotten the fascination of the few adventures he had known in his youth, particularly his mad passion for Anita. He smiled at his apprehension, because driving a few blocks through Brooklyn in bad weather was not exactly an adventure. At that moment he clearly saw how small and limited his existence had become. Then he really did feel afraid, afraid of having wasted so many years shut in on himself, afraid of the speed with which time was passing and old age and death were approaching. His glasses misted over with perspiration or tears; he tore them off and tried to wipe them on his sleeve. It was growing dark and visibility was poor. Clutching the wheel with his left hand, he tried to put his glasses back on with the right, but the gloves made him fumble, and the glasses fell down between the pedals. A curse issued from deep in his guts.

At that moment, when he was briefly distracted as he groped on the floor for his glasses, a white car that was almost invisible in the snow stopped at an intersection in front of him. Richard crashed into the back of it. The impact was so unexpected and overwhelming that for a fraction of a second he lost consciousness. He recovered at once, but felt as he did earlier that he was outside his body, with his heart racing, bathed in sweat, his skin burning hot, his shirt stuck to his back.

Despite this physical discomfort, his mind was on another plane, separated from this reality. The character in the film kept on muttering curses inside the car while he, a spectator in another dimension, was evaluating the situation coolly and calmly. He was sure it was only a minor accident. Both vehicles had been going very slowly. He had to find his glasses, get out of the car, and talk to the other driver in a civilized manner. After all, this was what auto insurance was for.

As he clambered out of the car he slipped on the icy sidewalk, and if he had not clung to the door he would have ended up flat on his back. He realized that even if he had braked he probably would have crashed, as he would have glided on along the ice for three or four yards before coming to a halt. Since the other vehicle, a Lexus SC, had been hit from behind, the force of the collision had knocked it forward. With the wind against him, Richard struggled the few yards separating him from the other driver, who had also emerged from the car. At first he thought it was a child too young to have a driver's license, but as he drew closer he saw it was a tiny young woman. She was wearing pants, black rubber boots, and a parka that was far too big for her. Her face was obscured by the hood.

"It was my fault. I'm sorry, I didn't see you. My insurance will pay for the repairs," said Richard.

The young woman glanced at the broken light and the dented, half-open trunk. She tried in vain to close it properly, while Richard went on about the insurance.

"If you want we can call the police, but there's no need. Here, take my card, it's easy to find me."

Excerpted from In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende. Copyright © 2017 by Isabel Allende. Excerpted by permission of Atria Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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