The tropical Venezuelan setting calls to mind a heat and humid environment for the characters of The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos, the new novel by Margaret Mascarenhas, but it’s the voices and passion of the characters that give this book its true headiness. I know that might sound like an out-of-place word to use to describe a novel, but I found this story to be truly intoxicating, as if all of my senses were being put to use as I read.
Told in nine chapters, the story revolves around a large cast of characters, with a new person narrating each section. With each new perspective, more pieces of the story and back-stories are filled in, giving the reader more information and sometimes competing versions of earlier events. Even when I was mildly confused about who was who, I continued to be intrigued with the intricate connections of the characters. As I neared the end of the novel, I decided to draw a character map of sorts, and I was amazed to see exactly how all the pieces of this complex puzzle fit together. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, the last chapter caused me to question my viewpoint of the entire narrative, essentially turning everything upside down in an way I never saw coming.
I’ve read a few novels written by Latin American authors, and this one fits the bill for the genre as I perceive it. The concept of magical realism as a literary device is in full play here– the fantastic and seemingly unbelievable events are incorporated in a narrative that is largely realistic. The novel is complete with folklore mixed with traditional religious beliefs, and an emphasis on the power of dreams. Characters are able to cross the line between the physical world and the dream world, and with all of these characteristics, the words jump off the page in their descriptiveness and beauty. A fair share of sexuality and passion, as well as violence and revolution themes fill the pages as well, which may be important to note for some readers. Personally, I was swept up in the drama, incredibly impressed by the vast landscape of characters and events that the author managed to paint, and drawn in by overwhelming pull of the story.
While Dawn’s daily life includes no dream worlds or tropical settings, it is filled with the wonders of raising three kids, which may not be as dramatic, but sure is fun to write about on her blog my thoughts exactly.