The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos
Grand Central, Jun 19 2009, $13.99
In Venezuela, fifteen year old Irene Dos Santos is on vacation with her best friend Lily Martinez when she vanishes. Everyone assumes she probably drowned though no body was found.
Years pass, Lily is eight months pregnant when she has an accident that leaves her bedridden on the same day that the town’s statue of the Patron Saint Maria Lionza cracks in half. Lily begins seeing visions of Irene that frighten her, but remind her of how much she lost when her rebellious friend vanished. Meanwhile her family persuades her they need to perform a Novena to Maria Lionza to insure the baby makes it from the spirit realm to the mortal world. Nine nights of prayers begin with every evening a different person tells a tale to entertain Lily and guide the unborn.
This is a fascinating but extremely difficult tale to read as the narration switches nine times making the novel feel more like a series of short vignettes though there some overarching common themes. The fun is with those recurring topics as readers see radically different perspectives on the Patron saint, the vanishing, and the country’s recent violent revolutionary past.