cover image In the Midst of Winter

In the Midst of Winter

Isabel Allende. Atria, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5011-7813-9

Grief and loss are transformed into a healing friendship in this fantastic novel from Allende (Zorro). Sixty-year-old scholar Richard Bowmaster and his coworker and tenant, 62-year-old Lucia Maraz, who is a visiting professor at NYU, are faced with a shocking dilemma when a young Guatemalan refugee enters their lives. Set primarily in Brooklyn and upstate New York, the book opens with a minor car collision between Richard and Evelyn Ortega—an undocumented immigrant working for an overbearing employer. Shaken and terrified because she borrowed her employer’s Lexus without his permission, Evelyn comes to Richard’s apartment. Unable to calm her, Richard solicits Lucia to come help and, with a snowstorm raging outside, the three nibble on pot brownies and share stories: Evelyn’s harrowing, tortured childhood at the hands of the MS-13 gang, Lucia’s youth amid the violence of the 1973 Chilean coup. Upon sobering up, Evelyn explains that she cannot return the Lexus, and that there is a dead body in the trunk, presumably murdered by her employer. Richard, having grown up hearing of his father’s escape from the Nazis, has “the idea etched on his mind that to help the persecuted is an inescapable duty.” With the threat that Evelyn could be deported if they notify the authorities, the three quickly plan to dispose of the body in upstate New York, launching a suspenseful, icy adventure. Filled with Allende’s signature lyricism and ingenious plotting, the book delves wonderfully into what it means to respect, protect, and love. (Oct.)