The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos

Margaret Mascarenhas, Author . Grand Central $13.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-446-54110-7

In her second novel, Mascarenhas (Skin ) uses a 15-year-old girl's disappearance to spin a multilayered history of a Venezuelan family, incorporating folklore, political intrigue and magical realism. Charismatic and rebellious, teenage Irene Dos Santos goes missing while on vacation with her best friend, Lily Martinez, and her parents; she's introduced through Lily's meandering memories, which seem at first like a convenient exposition dump. However, Mascarenhas sticks to the shaggy dog style, passing her close third-person narration from Lily to eight other characters, including Lily's parents and a seemingly unrelated boy named Efraín. Other recurring themes tying together disparate plot strands: an underground political struggle, the legend of unofficial saint Maria Lionza, telenovela screenwriting and the act of storytelling (a Martinez family obsession). At times overwhelming in its breathless explosions of information, this family epic is immersive; no character or event is left unexplored from multiple perspectives. Indeed, the conclusion is like the final piece of an intricate puzzle. (June)

Reviewed on: 04/20/2009
Release date: 06/01/2009
Open Ebook - 978-0-446-55143-4
Open Ebook - 181 pages - 978-0-446-79988-1
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