Review by Darcie Czajkowski
Andres Jimenez’s wife is gone. She’s left him for a second time, and this time she’s not coming back.
Andres finds a note in the mail from Marabella. This is it, he thinks. She’s gone forever. But instead of confirming that she left him, Andres is blindsided by the news that she was kidnapped. He is horrified. His hometown of Lima, Peru is notorious for kidnappings, sadistic people looking to pilfer money anywhere they can, regardless of who gets hurt. But Andres never thought it would happen to him. To his wife. To his family which includes his young daughter, Cynthia, and teenage son, Ignacio.
One million dollars. That’s the ransom price. How is he expected to come up with that amount of money? His printing business is successful by Peruvian standards, but he’s not a millionaire by American standards.
With the aid of a kidnapping consultant, Andres attempts to negotiate a lower price for his wife’s return, all the while wondering how he can put a price on her life. Adding to his mounting stress is the knowledge that he and his wife have been embroiled in a strained, distant marriage for some time now and he wonders: if she returns, will she just leave again, this time of her own volition and for good? Will his childhood best friend, Elena, be able to offer insight into Marabella’s experience given that she was kidnapped years prior?
Natalia Sylvester uses the vehicle of a kidnapping to delve into the inner workings of a troubled marriage. Even though I was perplexed by the blend of English and Spanish in the characters’ conversations in a Spanish-speaking country, I was captivated by the drama of how the negotiations would unspool and how the situation would affect Andres’s and Marabella’s marriage. Would Marabella be so violated and traumatized by the event that she would never be the same again? Would the event rekindle a common bond between them? Or perhaps she wouldn’t even make it back to her family alive? I voraciously read this book to learn how these issues would be resolved. While I was startled by the abruptness of the ending, I appreciate a believable, realistic conclusion which I believe is what I got. I recommend this book to lovers of literary fiction, those curious about Lima in the nineties during a time of political unrest, and those interested in a pleasurable amalgam of drama and suspense. A solid, satisfying first novel from Natalia Sylvester.
About the Author:
Born in Lima, Peru, Natalia Sylvester came to the U.S. at age four and grew up in South Florida, where she received a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Miami. A former magazine editor, she now works as a freelance writer in Austin, Texas. CHASING THE SUN, partially inspired by family events, is her first novel.
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