Tuesday, March 17, 2009
The World in Half
I wasn't expecting much. I didn't know anything about the book or its author, all I knew is that I received it from an offer on Shelf Awareness and I needed to whittle down my TBR stack. I picked up The World in Half by Cristina Henriquez and found myself transported to Chicago and Panama, in turn, and entranced by the beauty that I found in this author's first novel.
Miraflores is a geology student at the University of Chicago - I was immediately drawn to the setting since I used to work at the hospital there. She was raised by a single mother who has been becoming ill, and while going through some of her mother's papers, Mira discovers letters from her Panamanian father. Letters that reveal a great love and a different story than the one she has heard all her life and that nearly brought me to tears. Hoping to find something in Panama for herself and for her mother, Mira plans a trip to Panama, without the knowledge of her mother. Mira is quickly befriended by the doorman at her hotel, Hernan, and his nephew Danilo, close in age to Mira. Mira explores Panama with Danilo, searching for her father, and finding herself in Panama. Mira returns home, changed on the inside, and moving forward with a new external life as well and all the struggles that come with it. The way she handles herself is beautiful, she has so much strength of character and the sense that she must do what must be done. There is suspense in this book, wondering whether or not her search will be successful, but at its heart this book is a story of characters, and a beautiful relationship that didn't turn out as I thought it would, but in actuality was more touching than I could have imagined.
Peppered with tidbits about geology and the building of the Panama canal, the setting varying from tropical and steamy, to blustery and cold, this is a quiet book in many ways but one that celebrates humanity and love. I just enjoyed the experience of reading it so much, it transported me, and I recommend it highly.
The World in Half will be published on April 2. Many thanks to Riverhead Books for this advance copy.