Tag: Chile

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

April 26th, 2020 — 6:54pm

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende
This is an excellent novel. Not only is it a history lesson about Spain and South America in the mid and late 20thcentury but it is also a perceptive and sensitive examination into interpersonal relationships where there is love, separation at the time of war and revolution.
The story opens by focusing on two people as they flee from the ravages of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s under Franco’s fascist government which killed and tortured many of his opponents The author is obviously enamored with the writing of Pablo Neruda whom she quotes frequently throughout the book. Neruda also was the savior of thousands of Spanish refugees fleeing from Franco, who fled mostly on foot to France and then were allowed to board the SS Winnipeg, which he had actually chartered to cross the Atlantic and bring the fleeing Spanish refugees to Chile.

The Chilean people were generally receptive to the fleeing Spaniards. Among the various leaders that they encountered was the popular government of Salvador Allende (who is actually the author’s uncle and godfather). Alas, Allende’s government was overthrown in 1973, which created an unsafe environment for many of his supporters including the characters in our story, which led them to then flee to Venezuela. Finally, in their later years, the characters in this book whom we are following, returned to Chile where they feel most at home.

As I mentioned, as interesting as this is a political history, most of which many of us did not learn in school in the United States, it is also a moving story of a romance and meaningful relationship. We met Roser as a young girl growing up in Spain where she became a pianist, then widowed while she was pregnant. We then get an insight into her complicated relationship with Victor Dalman who was a physician and brother of the father of her child. We come to understand how circumstances led them to get married, become life partners and ultimately lovers.(2020)

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Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar

March 5th, 2015 — 1:32pm

Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Hector TobarScreen Shot 2015-03-05 at 12.26.05 PM

If you were on this planet in 2010 when 33 miners were trapped in Chile  for 69 days, half a mile beneath the earth’s surface, you must have heard about this captivating story. During the first 19 days, they had no contact with the outside world. They only had a few days’ supply of food and the water that they found was at best contaminated. Above ground, their loved ones were gathered near the entrance of the mine and were praying and supporting the Chilean government, as they organized an unprecedented rescue operation. This involved an outpouring of assistance from all over the world. There were three separate plans to drill a hole to reach the trapped miners. There was no guarantee that they would be reached in time to save their lives. Even after one drilling operation broke through to the place where they were gathered and was pounded on by the trapped miners and painted red so the people above would know they were reached, there still was uncertainty whether they would be saved from their underground prison. Soon, food and messages were lowered to them through the small hole and they found out that the world was following their ordeal.

The 33 miners made a pact that if they survived they would all agree to tell their story in a unified way and would share any riches that would be offered to them for the details of their unusual experience. Ultimately, Pulitzer Prize-winning  author of Mexican descent, Hector Tobar, was chosen to write their story in this book. He spent untold hours speaking with the miners and their families, as well as many other people who were involved in this unusual event. Even if the reader knows all the details of the eventual outcome, this book was suspenseful and read like an adventure story which would keep the readers on the edge of their seats. One small example of the human interest that also was found throughout this book is the story of a devoted wife and a loving mistress of the same man, both of whom came to know each other as they waited and prayed for the safety of their men.

The story did not end with the emergence of the miners from the rescue capsule. It was inevitable that they would have psychological issues as a result of their ordeal. I was one of the many mental health experts who was very concerned about the sequelae that they would face (see blog). This book certainly should meet all expectations as a true to life adventure thriller. It is factual, in-depth and captures the human drama of these people. It can stand on its own, or it may be the basis for a documentary film, or a dramatic movie that should be made (or may have already been made or is in process). While I believe this book deserves all the credit that others and myself have heaped upon it, I believe there is even a better recent book of the same genre about another calamitous event. That book is titled Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink. It is about the inside story of a New Orleans Hospital isolated and with without electricity during hurricane Katrina. Both of these books are outstanding and should not be missed.

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