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The structure of this novel is difficult to describe, and even more difficult to relate the contents of the novel to the title.
The novel is set on a farm in Vermont where the narrator, his wife and three children are about to receive guests for a night or two. The guests are an old friend of the narrator, a college professor and political activist, Marshall. He is escorting the woman of the title, Luisa Domic, widow of the recently deceased journalist Alejandro Domic. He died as part of the reprisals against leftists in the coup which overthrew Allende in Chili and put Pinochet into power. Luisa was also taken prisoner, forced to watch her children be tortured to death and then she was released. She and Marshall are on their way to Quebec where Luisa has family with whom she will stay. Additionally, we have the character of Harold Ashby, famous composer and psychologist who uses music in therapy. He too is visiting the farm in Vermont at the time of Luisa’s visit.
Yet that description doesn’t really set the stage for this “novel,” since the novel, while containing long beautifully written passages about the interactions of the people, isn’t about Luisa despite the title. Its central theme is actually quite abstract, about the basic goodness of the overwhelming bulk of ordinary everyday people, whose lives are impacted and often harmed or destroyed by the power brokers and politicians of the world.
We are presented the “good guys,” such as Harold who not only brings great beauty to the world with his music, but even uses that music in the humanitarian interest of autistic children, the cheery alternative life-style family of the narrator, his wife and children, the gruff but crusading Marshall, trying to save the world from the bad folks, the highly cultured Luisa herself, and even a smattering of local farmers, the “every man” of this morality play. They are contrasted with the never present, but causes of all evil, the power brokers such as those who staged the coup and massacres in Chili, and their financial backers in the U.S. government.
The narrator says at one point:
Our country’s complicity in the overthrow of Allende made one realize yet once again the degree to which we were not citizens at all, but hostages of a secret government. We had financed a murderous subversion, agree or not – and agree or not we would profit personally from the torments of Chileans.”
The lines are crisp and clear. Good is good and evil is evil. This novel is perhaps a classic morality play.
Bit by bit much of the writing is quite compelling and interesting, but the clash between the title and the way the thin plot plays itself out troubled me. This novel is 150 pages long and it is more than 60 pages until Luisa Domic of the title is even mentioned. I kept wondering, and disturbing my reading, what has all this to do with Luisa? Then once Luisa arrives I was expecting great things of her arrival and major plot changes. But they never came. If the novel is “about” any of the group of characters it is the family of the narrator, wife and children and their attempt at raising their children in an alternative world by an alternative method of child rearing from the norm.
I loved many of the bits and pieces of the novel, but came away dissatisfied with the whole.Bob Corbett email@example.com
Bob Corbett firstname.lastname@example.org