In Lima, Peru in 1992, Andres Jimenez runs a fairly successful label-making company, though he and his family are far from rich. His wife, Marabela, is a stay-at-home mom and photographer, who once took pictures for the paper but now has been relegated to a space within the house. And lately, the two have been growing apart--though none of that seems to matter to Andres when Marabela vanishes one evening, and he gets a ransom note in the mail the next day.
This is a novel not about a kidnapping, though of course there is a kidnapping in it, but of relationships, and how we end up where we are, with the people we are with. It's a story of forced separations and growing apart and then finding each other again, in a myriad of different ways. Rounding out the cast of characters are Ignacio and Cynthia, the Jimenez children; Guillermo, a consultant hired to help get Marabela back; Lorena, Andres' estranged mother; Carla and Consuelo, the maids of the Jimenez household; and Elena, Andres' childhood best friend and the girl he was supposed to marry before he met Marabela. All of these people with, perhaps, the exception of Guillermo and Consuelo, are complete emotional messes. They're all mixed up in all sorts of ways, and Sylvester weaves what's a pretty beautiful story of them trying to find their way through their lives and the tension surrounding Marabela's disappearance.
One thing I really would have loved would have been some scenes of Marabela while she was in captivity. Having read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's News of a Kidnapping last year, I think I expected a little more "action" from this book. However, that's clearly not what this narrative was supposed to be, and I can respect that. One thing I also would have liked would have been more descriptions and interactions with Lima itself. I love reading books about places I might never get the opportunity to see, and I thought would have really enjoyed seeing more engagement with the location. That said, however, Sylvester's writing is beautiful--although it is, I must point out, in present tense. Present tense isn't my favorite and I know it can grate on the nerves of some people, so I think I should throw that out there. Whenever I read present-tense books I find myself writing in present tense, too, which really annoys me. However, once you get into the narrative, it doesn't seem as jarring as it does at first, and I did find myself thoroughly engaged with the Jimenezs' story.
3.5 stars out of 5.