Marie Arana's wonderful new novel, Lima Nights
, is filled with surprises as she tells the story of Carlos Bluhm, a 40-something Lima aristocrat, and Maria, his 16-year-old lover from the slums of Lurigancho. Carlos is married when we first meet him, in 1986; he's also slightly down on his luck and restless, as are his three charming buddies who regularly join him for a night on the town. Casual affairs are the norm for Carlos and his circle, but when he meets Maria in a tango bar, that edifice of detachment crumbles, and he is gripped obsessively by the beauty and poise of this girl. The mood turns ominous—Carlos's familial turmoil echoing in the larger world as Shining Path rebels make swaths of the city off-limits to the likes of Carlos. Twenty years later, the results of these seismic shifts are palpable, as Carlos and Maria circle each other, trapped in his once grand house, hackles raised, frustration evident in every gesture. Arana's prose is spare and powerful—the characters, the psychology, the description of Lima are vivid and completely absorbing. And while you know you're watching a train wreck, the pace is so explosive and tense you willingly push on to the end, desperate to know who will survive this long dance.
— Elaina Richardson