Summary and book reviews of In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende

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
    Paperback:
    Sep 2018, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Natalie Vaynberg
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About this Book

Book Summary

New York Times and worldwide bestselling "dazzling storyteller" (Associated Press) Isabel Allende returns with a sweeping novel about three very different people who are brought together in a mesmerizing story that journeys from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil.

In the Midst of Winter begins with a minor traffic accident - which becomes the catalyst for an unexpected and moving love story between two people who thought they were deep into the winter of their lives. Richard Bowmaster - a 60-year-old human rights scholar - hits the car of Evelyn Ortega - a young, undocumented immigrant from Guatemala - in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn. What at first seems just a small inconvenience takes an unforeseen and far more serious turn when Evelyn turns up at the professor's house seeking help. At a loss, the professor asks his tenant Lucia Maraz - a 62-year-old lecturer from Chile - for her advice. These three very different people are brought together in a mesmerizing story that moves from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil, sparking the beginning of a long overdue love story between Richard and Lucia.

Exploring the timely issues of human rights and the plight of immigrants and refugees, the book recalls Allende's landmark novel The House of the Spirits in the way it embraces the cause of "humanity, and it does so with passion, humor, and wisdom that transcend politics" (Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post). In the Midst of Winter will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

Excerpt
In The Midst of Winter

Traffic was restricted except for emergencies, which was exactly what this was. He looked up the address of the nearest veterinary hospital, which he remembered passing by at some point. He wrapped the cat in a blanket and put him in his car. He was glad he had brushed the snow off that morning, and relieved the disaster had not occurred the day before while the blizzard was raging. Brooklyn had become a Nordic city, white on white, the angles softened by the snow, empty streets, and a strange peace, as if nature were yawning. "Don't you dare get the idea of dying, Três, please. You're a proletarian cat, you've got steel guts, a bit of antifreeze is nothing, hang in there," Richard encouraged him as he drove with painful slowness through the snow, conscious that each extra minute could prove fatal for Três. "Stay calm, pal, hang on. I can't go any quicker because if we skid we're done for. We're almost there. I'...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Each of the three main characters—Lucia, Evelyn, and Richard—experiences some kind of isolation in their present life. The book begins with Lucia physically isolated in her apartment during a snowstorm. In what other ways is she isolated? How is her isolation different from Evelyn's? And from Richard's?
  2. Evelyn comes to the United States as a refugee fleeing violence. Compare her experience entering the country with that of other immigrants you know of or have read about. Why did they leave their native countries, and what were their first experiences as immigrants? Did you find any aspects of Evelyn's journey surprising? It is said that the United States is a country of immigrants, and that immigrants made this ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Unlike Allende's previous works, this is not a story of magic realism or a glittering multi-generational saga. In the Midst of Winter has a much smaller scope and a much simpler plot line. Although they are interesting, the characters are uncomplicated; each has a maximum of two main objectives at a time. This is a classic "beach" read, despite being set in January. Read it to get swept away for a few hours, read it to learn something about Latin American history, for a touch of romance and intrigue, or maybe to learn a bit about what makes Isabel Allende tick...continued

Full Review (651 words).

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(Reviewed by Natalie Vaynberg).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
This winter's tale has something to melt each frozen heart.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Filled with Allende's signature lyricism and ingenious plotting, this book delves wonderfully into what it means to respect, protect, and love.

Booklist
Starred Review. Allende has a rare and precious gift for simultaneously challenging and entrancing readers by dramatizing with startling intimacy such diresituations as the desperation behind illegal immigration and domestic violence, then reveling, a page later, in spiritual visions or mischievous sexiness or heroic levity.

Reader Reviews

tuffbird

in the midst of winter
Hits all the current social issues including binary sex identification, thus guaranteeing an audience... implausible plot, commercial fiction, unexpected from this author

AngelaH

Disappointing
While there is much to like in this novel in regards to character development and descriptions of location, relevance to current political climate, I could not get past the main plot which I found to be distracting and unrealistic. It's a shame the ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Life and Times of a Human Smuggler

Illegal Immigrant in Trunk of CarWe have heard a lot about illegal immigration in the past few months – it is a hot topic of discussion and debate, vast amounts of time and money are spent on controlling, limiting or shutting it down across the border between the US and Mexico. However, there are many stories of migrants who make it across: Isabel Allende's In the Midst of Winter tells a fictionalized account of such a story. How is successful crossing achieved? Who are the smugglers making their livelihood on these dangerous journeys? Are they heroes, villains or something else entirely – perhaps simply savvy businessmen?

In her novel, Allende refers to smugglers as "coyotes," a term that is universally understood by all characters. Coyote refers to a ...

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