Allende, as effervescent in her compassion, social concerns, and profound joy in storytelling as ever, brings both humor and intensity to this madcap, soulful, and transporting tale of three survivors who share their traumatic pasts while embarking on a lunatic mission of mercy ... Allende has a rare and precious gift for simultaneously challenging and entrancing readers by dramatizing with startling intimacy such dire situations as the desperation behind illegal immigration and domestic violence, then reveling, a page later, in spiritual visions or mischievous sexiness or heroic levity.
Devotees of Allende’s forays into magical realism will find the universe she creates here — an account of earthly lives lived in an earthly setting — more madcap and macabre ... What follows is a caper: cinematic in quality and marked by moments of reflection, yearning, terror and a bit of slapstick comedy ... While In the Midst of Winter lacks subtlety at points — the title, epigraph and ending dialogue all refer to the same Camus quotation — the novel delivers opportunities for the reader to ponder nuanced moral questions involving immigration policies and the administration of natural justice.
Each of Allende’s sentences curls into the next like a delicate arabesque. She is most at ease when describing the august romance that blooms between Richard and Lucia ... Allende’s characters’ lives are marked by tragedy — fate seems to have dealt them more than their fair share of darkness. But the book shines when she gives voice to the slow burn of mature love. Allende’s work can rely too heavily on stereotypes, substituting culture as a shorthand for character ... At times it seems the gravity of the plot is a bit lost on Allende and her characters. Readers who love Allende will find much to enjoy. This is a syntactically beautiful story with the twists and turns of a telenovela, and it has warmth at its center. It is a novel that touches some difficult topics: immigration, murder, spiritual belief, divorce and the death of children. Although she can sometimes take on too much, Allende writes connections well.
Isabel Allende’s In the Midst of Winter is her 19th novel, and it is told with her characteristic warmth ... It’s when revealing the characters’ harrowing past lives in other countries that the generous and unflagging energy that characterized Allende’s debut, The House of the Spirits, can most clearly be felt ...sturdy braid of dramatic migration stories is balanced by an equally interesting present-day plot ... Allende writes in a tender and direct way about what it’s like to live in an older body while seeking romantic love and sexual intimacy ...when Allende moves away from the potential love story, and ties the plot too intricately back to immigration trouble, the novel loses some of its verve ... It’s not hard to arrive at the end of this arresting romance and conclude that if its politics around documentation and human trafficking are expressed too bluntly, too crudely, the reality Allende drew from warrants it.
Uneasy because while this novel displays all the Allende hallmarks that made her famous — passages of eloquently expressed ideas, a love story set amid political turmoil, well-drawn characters — fundamentally it lacks cohesive plot tension to hold all the elements together. The novel moves in jumps and starts ...unwieldy structure that cuts across time periods and continents ... Evelyn’s story is among the best writing in the book. Allende uses her background in Chile and her admirable lifelong stand for human rights... Allende is a masterly writer when she writes of emotions, and especially of love ...a novel of the redemptive recording of oral history and also of healing love. The murder subplot is an unnecessary add-on.
In the Midst of Winter is another example of the beautiful prose of this remarkable strong woman, activist and writer whose every tome seems to only deepen our respect for her talent and wisdom ...a time travel novel that slips back and forth between very specific places and periods, and weaves together a compelling story of present-day Brooklyn, Guatemala in the near past, and Chile and Brazil in the tumultuous 1970s ...an integrative storyline that pulls the reader in deeper and deeper as more and more details are divulged. The story is complicated and messy –– there are no easy answers or endings to any of their struggles ...a timeless tale of coming together... Allende is poetic, filling her book with a light and savory prose that belies its intense political undertones and thus makes it a very readable story.
The story owes less to magical realism than to histrionic crime dramas … As the trio journeys upstate, the novel flashes back through each character’s past...They plead with the reader to have sympathy for Latino immigrants, which is a fine humanitarian agenda. But heaps of suffering and misfortune cannot give depth to thin characters … Allende is clearly eager to weigh in on the political moment. But the story is too shallow and the writing too syrupy to make for a thoughtful treatment of the subject.
In the Midst of Winter is Allende’s 23rd book, and it brings together a trio of characters deeply marked by their pasts … The dead body here — a woman in yoga clothes with a neat bullet hole through her forehead — is given a back-story, and a somewhat more pleasant final resting place. But it is a clumsy and unconvincing plot device, a distraction from the slow unveiling of a far more thoughtful set of revealed histories … Of Allende’s 19 previous novels, The House of the Spirits, Eva Luna and Paula are probably still the best loved. In the Midst of Winter may not approach the kind of cult status those enjoy, but in her seventies, Allende has an unflashy wisdom to offer, a maturity that illuminates her storytelling.
In the Midst of Winter is a light tragedy, an off-kilter mix of sweetness and bleakness held together only by Allende’s dulcet voice … Allende is following the classic rom-com structure: a vivacious woman and a dyspeptic man who claims he’ll never love again. And In the Midst of Winter develops that late-in-life romance between Lucia and Richard with all the humor and charm one could ask for … It’s as though Allende has shifted from magical realism to magical feelism, some kind of synthetic hopefulness that asks us to brush off the agonies that her novel’s alternate chapters so indelibly portray.
It’s when revealing the characters’ harrowing past lives in other countries that the generous and unflagging energy that characterized Allende’s debut, The House of the Spirits, can most clearly be felt … Tremendous pleasure can be found in the present-day plot, especially in its honesty about quieter matters. Allende writes in a tender and direct way about what it’s like to live in an older body while seeking romantic love and sexual intimacy. While we can predict what will happen between Lucia and Richard, that doesn’t diminish how charmingly told this courtship is, and what a light, heartwarming contrast it provides, particularly set against a backdrop of haunting pasts … To quarrel with this novel’s overstated politics when there is so much that is lovely and structurally balanced about it may be stingy.
Once Lucia gradually pieces together Evelyn’s story—she was smuggled north by a coyote after barely surviving gang violence that killed both of her siblings—the two professors decide to help her, and the plan they come up with is straight out of a telenovela. While that’s getting underway, Allende fills in the dark and complicated histories of Richard and Lucia, who also have suffered defining losses. The horrors of Evelyn’s past have left her all but mute; Richard is a complete nervous wreck; Lucia fears there is no greater love coming her way than that of her Chihuahua, Marcelo. This winter’s tale has something to melt each frozen heart.
Grief and loss are transformed into a healing friendship in this fantastic novel from Allende ... 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 ...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.