I was lucky enough to win a copy of The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santosin a giveaway hosted by another blog. I had never heard of the book prior to then, but after the giveaway I began to notice it all over the place. It was touted by critics everywhere, and by the time it arrived I was dying to read it.
When I read the back flap, I got the impression that the book would focus primarily on the disappearance of a teenage girl, Irene Dos Santos (I know, I should have gathered that much from the title) while on vacation with her friend, Lily, and Lily's family; as well the effect that Irene's disappearance had on the remainder of Lily's life. I was wrong.
The story begins as described: Lily is a grown, married woman 8 months pregnant with her first child. After an accident, she is put on bed rest (after staunchly refusing a c-section) to await her son or daughter’s birth. Her family's live-in housekeeper (who has been with the family since Lily was a child) is convinced that someone has given Lily and her unborn child the "evil eye" and that the only way to counter the effects is to perform a 9 night ritual called a Novena, in which family members pray and tell a story about a happy memory for the baby each night.
It is through these nightly stories that Lily's family history unfolds for the reader. The stories are about everything from love, to imprisonment, to the quest for freedom in Venezuela as told by the revolutionaries, of which Lily's father Ismael was a member. We also get a richly detailed lesson in the religious beliefs of the Venezuelan people and indigenous Indian tribes.
Frankly, I had expectations for this book that I didn't feel as though it delivered. I was expecting more focus on the mystery surrounding Irene's disappearance, but felt like that subject became almost a footnote within the scope of a much wider tale. While I enjoyed the book, I felt as though it took an exceptionally long time to go a very short distance, and was left feeling unsatisfied by it's conclusion. Without truly being a spoiler, I can say that the truth of Irene's disappearance is wrapped up in a few short pages.
All in all, while I have to digress that the book was exceedingly well written, I didn't really care for the way that the story flowed. It jumped around in time and from different character's points of view. And, especially at the beginning, it often did so without preamble. If you are looking for a historical novel about the revolution in Venezuela, you will probably really enjoy the richness in which this book tells the tale of hardship, sacrifice, and the endurance of spirit that were prominent throughout. However, if you are looking for a satisfying mystery, this book probably isn't for you. I give The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos 3 1/2 stars.
If The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos sounds like your idea of a good read, please comment on this review for your chance to win my copy. While I enjoyed it, it is not something I want to keep in my personal library. Contest will run until June 30th, and is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. Please leave an email address so that I can contact you if you are chosen. Thanks for reading, and good luck!!