Thursday, April 21, 2011

Recent Reads: The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos by Margaret Mascarenhas

A neighbor down the road introduced me to this book. It was our first exchange, and she gave it to me with some hesitation, worried about what I liked to read and if I would like this particular book. She didn’t need to worry about me basing any type of bias towards the book or her; I love to read and enjoy being introduced to new authors.

Margaret Mascarenhas presents the reader to Irene Dos Santos via the voice of her girlhood best friend, Lily Martinez. Lily is older and reflecting on her friendship with Irene, and her disappearance. Lily is haunted by the mysterious loss, and cannot quite comprehend what exactly happened on a trip that the Martinez family took with their guest, Irene.

The book continues to explore that fateful day through various members of the family in their distinctive voice. Even the maid gets to share her side, along with a boy named Efrain who ends up having connections to the family.

The book is set in Venezuela and the storyline follows the political struggles of the time, folklore, and incorporates the story of the saint Maria Lionza.

Stories within stories, this book kept me captivated and interested in what really happened to Irene. In fact, I’m still deliberating about her disappearance. Discovering the struggles of the lives of the Martinez family and the Venezuelan people left me wanting to learn more about the culture and about the history of the mystical reference to the saint Maria Lionza. The author stays true to the voice of each character, making me wish certain ones could continue on in telling their own side.

Mascarenhas grew up in Venezuela. I feel reading international authors gives insight to a country’s language, although the books have been translated into English. Their use of clich├ęs are far less than some American authors, and I enjoy reading how they formulate the words to convey their stories, culture, and views on life.

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