Friday, April 23, 2010

Evenings at the Argentine Club

Author: Julia Amante
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Book Group
Copyright: 2009
Genre: Women's Fiction

Victoria Torres is the daughter of Argentine immigrants to America, and she has always followed the model of a good Argentine daughter, taking care of her parents and living at home, even at age 28! But when Eric Ortelli, the son of family friends, returns to the community after having abruptly left seven years earlier and making his own life for himself, Victoria starts to rethink her own life. She realizes that her view of herself as a "nothing," not helped by her body image, is only because she is doing nothing, and she takes charge of her future in a series of risks.She begins to see her own worth, helped along by Eric, and balances independence with family obligations.

The book starts off introducing Victoria and the "nothing" path of life she basically fell into, along with the customs and expectations of the Argentine community. When Victoria finally decides to make a bold move, I actually gave a little cheer! I realized that I had been eased into the world and culture, and introduced to the characters so that I didn't notice when it happened, but I gradually came to care a lot about what these characters did.

The novel's subtlety is great. There are a lot of shades and layers to each character and to every event, but everything is presented subtly, naturally interwoven into the story itself. The relationships, especially the relationship between Victoria and Eric, are developed really well and realistically. I was drawn into Victoria and Eric's relationship because it doesn't happen in a flash, and there are no cliches in it. It happens slowly and gradually, the way real relationships do. I enjoyed following the ups and downs of their relationship, especially since I was never sure what would happen next.

The realness of the story is also in the choices and decisions each character has to make, and the consequences of each one. Not only Victoria, but Eric, Victoria's parents, and others all face choices and sometimes don't know what the outcome will be. It's amazing to see how each decision affects every part of the characters' lives, whether their own or others', because that is how it is in real life. The author skillfully weaves all the threads of the various options together to create the tapestry of these characters' lives.

I love how the author uses multiple points of view to tell the whole story. If she had focused on only one character, or on Victoria and Eric alone, so much of the richness of the story would be lost. And while the story is told from many characters' points of view, there is never any confusion as to whose head you're seeing inside at any given point. Somehow, the author manages to make it very clear, without resorting to introducing each change.

About halfway through the story, I realized that I had started to "see" events unfolding on a screen, and I thought - wow, I'd love to see this as a movie! The story would make a great romantic drama, with all the nuances of feelings and expressions.

This was a great book to sink into, to experience the story together with the characters. The struggle of finding your own path while maintaining family ties and relationships is something many people can relate to, and it is presented with unique characters and in a touching manner. An all-around great read!

Thanks to Latoya Smith of Grand Central Publishing for providing this book.

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