Verdict: A surprising development near the end of the book seems perfectly logical and leads to a satisfying conclusion for this beautifully written first effort.
Ten year old Rita Ray is uprooted by her mother, Maia, from their home in Brazil for a new life in Florida. Rita works hard, gets a degree and becomes a successful banker in New York. She seldom dates and keeps everyone at a distance, including her mother, until the day she gets a call informing her that Maia is dying from cancer. Rita, now 37 years old, rushes to the hospital, anxious to make up for her fifteen years of absence. The reunion is not to be.
Following her mother’s death, Rita finds letters from Elisebethe, a close friend of Maia’s that she knew as a child, which prompts a return trip to Rio. The city, although perhaps overly described (sometimes the novel reads more like a travelogue) provides both a backdrop and a tonic for Rita. It is there, among the culture and history of the city of her birth, that Rita begins to learn about her mother’s past and to better understand the what drove her to take her young daughter and leave the country. Rita’s desire to find and reconnect with her father, who unbeknownst to her was abusive, fuels the narrative and creates suspense.
The book contains beautiful passages of inner dialogue revealing Rita’s guilt over certain events in her life, in particular her estrangement with her mother. All of the characters are given comprehensive back stories, but with the exception of Gabriel, a charming man Rita meets on the plane, none of the major male characters come off well. They are cheaters, abusers, overbearing and domineering and mostly indifferent to the women in their lives and children they have fathered.
A surprising development near the end of the book seems perfectly logical and leads to a satisfying conclusion for this beautifully written first effort.
Reviewed by Joe DelPriore for IndieReader
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