I received this book for free from the publisher / TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Chasing the Sun by Natalia Sylvester
Published by Lake Union Publishing on June 1, 2014
Source: the publisher / TLC Book Tours
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Andres suspects his wife has left him—again. Then he learns that the unthinkable has happened: she’s been kidnapped. Set in Lima, Peru, in a time of civil and political unrest, this evocative page-turner is a perfect marriage of domestic drama and suspense. Too much time and too many secrets have come between Andres and Marabela, but now that she’s gone, he’d do anything to get her back.
Or will he?
Unfortunately, her fate isn’t entirely up to him, or to the private mediator hired to negotiate with the kidnappers. Andres struggles to maintain an illusion of control while scrambling to collect his wife’s ransom, tending to the needs of his two young children, and reconnecting with an old friend who may hold the key to his past and his wife’s future. As Marabela slips farther away, Andres must decide whether they still have something worth fighting for, and exactly what he’ll give up to bring her home.
(from the author's website)
Chasing the Sun is set against the backdrop of the civil unrest that was taking place in Lima, Peru, in the early 1990s. I knew relatively nothing about Peru before reading this and I learned quite a few interesting things in the process. For example, did you know that Mario Vargas Llosa ran for the presidency of Peru in 1990? Llosa is one of those writers whom I’ve been meaning to read for a long time and just haven’t gotten to yet. I had no idea he was also a politician (I didn’t know much about him, period, until I looked him up while reading this book).
In 1992, as I understand it, Lima was in a state of upheaval, politically, civilly, and economically. There was a new president (who had been elected in 1990–he defeated Llosa in the elections) and there was an insurgent group called the Shining Path who opposed the current government. Chasing the Sun doesn’t give very many specifics, but Lima was on a curfew, bombs were exploding every day in different parts of the city, and people were being kidnapped and ransomed for large sums of money.
This is where Andres’ story begins.
Andres’ wife, Marabela, doesn’t come home one evening after running an errand for him. She has left him on her own accord one time before, so he assumes she has left him again. A day or two goes by and Andres finally gets a phone call from the men who have kidnapped her, demanding he pay them a sum of money (that he assures them he doesn’t have) in order to get her back.
In the meantime, Andres’ best friend from childhood (and onetime girlfriend), Elena, is spending some time in a private mental health facility due to being traumatized by her kidnapping two years ago.
Chasing the Sun follows Andres’ efforts to bring his wife home while also looking back at his past and his relationships with the two women in his life.
Admittedly, my interest in this book stopped at the politics and history of Peru.
I love that I learned something about Peru’s history and culture from Chasing the Sun and that it forced me to do a bit of research on my own to better understand the situation the story took place in. And I loved the bits of philosophical and political commentary in the book:
What Andres can’t understand is how quickly civil unrest can become normal, how instead of finding a solution, people adapt. Things have been this way for so long that general unease has grown comfortable. It is like a stovetop left unattended–everyone feels the heat but they’ve chosen to protect themselves rather than get close enough to shut it off. Why risk getting burned?
“Hermano, really? He suspended the god damned constitution! This is going to change everything. Watch, ten years from now when these terroristas de mierda have been locked up for years and no one remembers their names or what they did, then the people will start complaining about democracy and everything they willingly gave up when they were too afraid to stand up for it. Remember, I said it first. Anyone who gets rid of freedom in the name of freedom is no better than the terrorists.”
And that’s where my interest in the book ends.
I just couldn’t get into the actual story enough to care about what was happening to the characters. I don’t know if it was the fault of the writing (not enough depth?), or that I just wasn’t in the mood for this kind of book. I finished it out of necessity (I made a commitment) and not out of the need to know how it ended. And that’s unfortunate because I was really looking forward to it when I accepted it for review. The cover is gorgeous and the synopsis sounded really good to me. I gave it three stars on Goodreads–I certainly didn’t dislike it, but it didn’t hold my interest like I’d hoped, either.
There are lots of other readers on Goodreads who gave Chasing the Sun four- and five-star ratings, so if it sounds interesting to you, I definitely wouldn’t tell you not to read it.
This is Natalie Sylvester’s first novel, and lots of writers get better with time. Despite my disinterest in this particular book, I think she has a lot of potential and I would definitely try another book of hers in the future.