In the Midst of Winter

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In the Midst of Winter
352 pages
Loneliness, according to several recent psychiatric studies, can be as detrimental to our health as smoking. Why does this matter in the context of Isabel Allende's tender new novel, In the Midst of Winter? The central characters are 60-year-old Richard, a human rights scholar, and 62-year-old Lucia, a lecturer from Chile and tenant in Richard's Brooklyn brownstone. The two, long single, have spent so much of their lives trying to alleviate the suffering of others that they've neglected to confront their own discontent. When an undocumented Guatemalan immigrant enlists their help in disposing of the body she's discovered in the trunk of her employer's car, the trio join forces on a grim yet oddly comical mission, along the way revealing the harrowing events that shaped each of them.

That Richard and Lucia end up together is no surprise: as she finally tells him, "The only cure for so much misfortune is love." That sentence might be an epigraph for most of Allende's work. Often originating in autobiography and framed by political struggle, her fiction illuminates her passionate belief that our time on earth is fraught with tragedy but redeemed through the power of human affinity. In the winter of their lives, the couple discover that an invincible summer still lies within them.
— Jacquelyn Mitchard