A coming-of-age story, based on a recent shocking chapter of Argentine history, about a young woman who makes a devastating discovery about her origins with the help of an enigmatic houseguest.
Perla Correa grew up a privileged only child in Buenos Aires, with a cold, polished mother and a straitlaced naval officer father, whose profession she learned early on not to disclose in a country still reeling from the abuses perpetrated by the deposed military dictatorship. Perla understands that her parents were on the wrong side of the conflict, but her love for her papá is unconditional. But when Perla is startled by an uninvited visitor, she begins a journey that will force her to confront the unease she has suppressed all her life, and to make a wrenching decision about who she is, and who she will become.
Perla had always struggled to reconcile her father's role in Argentina's Dirty War, plagued since childhood by shame and loyalty, how could this man be both a tender papa yet a monster? When a dripping wet man, smelling of the sea, appears in her living room in obvious pain and unable to move, she must face her family's past and rethink her future.
How do you write a lovely book about such heavy material? In this case I suspect it is the use of magical realism, which is a genre that this reader normally does not embrace (though I try), that contributes to its success. De Robertis seamlessly ties in the unpleasant historical details of civil war with snippets of Perla's youth and relationships. Her writing style teems with beautiful imagery, without being too flowery, but in the way of elevating the ordinary. Obviously the appearance of the stranger may seem awkward, but it doesn't detract and makes sense, even to a skeptic like me. The setting of Buenos Aires and the pulse of the city add to the tension. Before reading Perla, I was not familiar with this surprisingly recent piece of Argentine history where thousands of suspected subversives were stripped from their families, tortured and killed. From what I have gathered, this is the first time it has been handled in fiction and I think it was done quite masterfully. I would be curious to know if fans of Latin American literature enjoy Perla as much as this reluctant reader. This is a wonderful introduction to that genre for readers that may be intimidated by Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Isabel Allende.
For more about the author visit her website: http://www.carolinaderobertis.com.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the review copy. For more thoughts on Perla look here.