A week ago my grandmother gave me a dry-eyed hug at the San Francisco airport and told me again that if I valued my life at all, I should not get in touch with anyone I knew until we could be sure my enemies were no longer looking for me.
Maya’s life went spectacularly off the rails. Which is why she finds herself on a remote island in a remote part of Chile, on the run from American law. There, as she gets used to the slow life of the island, she gets to know its inhabitants.
For me, this book lived off its amazing characters. When it described the characters, that’s when the book came to life. There were so many utterly likeable people in this book, people I’d love to have a cup of tea with. There’s Maya’s grandmother Nini, who’s esoteric and at the same time addicted to true crime.
There’s her grandfather Popo, an astronomer and gentle giant who cares so much about Maya and her grandmother that it made my heart ache.
“Promise me you’ll always love yourself as much as I love you, Maya,” he told me repeatedly and I’d promise without knowing what that strange phrase meant.
And then there’s the people on the island. Manuel, the guy who shelters Maya, a traumatized torture survivor, a neat freak, an ironic man in a place full of believers in the supernatural.
There were many more, particularly in Chile and it was a lot of fun to read about them.
Chileans venerate the Pope, but they don’t heed him in sexual matters and their consequences, because he’s a well-off, elderly celibate, who hasn’t worked a day in his life, and doesn’t really know much about it.
In many ways, I liked them better than Maya, our protagonist because, let’s be honest: Maya is spoiled. She acts out like a three year old. Sure, she has been through a lot but she was like that even before everything happened.
Also, there was an odd discrepancy between the way Maya writes and the conversations she notes down in her notebook. I liked her tone of voice when she was writing but in conversations, she annoyed me because she seemed to terribly immature, way younger than 19.
You think ybout your book too much, but you don’t spend time thinking about more important things, for example, how depressing your life was before my arrival. And what will become of you when I go? You should think about love, Manuel. Everybody needs love.”
“Aha. Where’s yours?” he asked, laughing.
“I can wait – I’m ninteen years old with my whole life ahead of me; you’re ninety, and you could die in fice minutes.”
The book tackles quite a few issues at the same time: drugs, abuse, prostitution, torture and Chile’s past under Pinochet. It is often difficult to read because it is so heartbreaking and I really rooted for the characters.
It’s the varied set of characters that make this book such an interesting read.