I am delighted by the reviews coming in for When We Return!
I would also like to share the 5 star review posted by Charlotte on Amazon and Goodreads. Here are her comments:
When we Return primarily revolves around Otilia Perez, a Peruvian whose husband Manuel and young son Salvador disappeared while attempting to avoid the Shining Path guerillas during the 1990’s. It is a meticulously researched book providing extensive background about the political upheaval in Peru and the government subsequent attempts to make reparations. Now twenty years later, Otilia has reconnected with her son who still lives in Peru, and is flying there to meet with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to apply for compensation for the disappearance of her husband and the illegal sale of her land by her brother. On the flight, she meets Jerry Gold, the son of Miles, a Jewish Czech who had escaped the Holocaust. Jerry has just found out that his father had unknowingly sired a son while in Bolivia, giving him a half-brother Dario. Otilia and Jerry begin a slow-burning romance.
Tobias weaves together the stories of these characters, and draws a number of parallels between those who suffered in the Holocaust and those who suffered in Peru. The characters face many emotional challenges. Otilia resents having lost so many years of being in her son’s life, feels conflicted about pursuing a romantic relationship when her husband’s body has not been found, and is frustrated when she is met at every turn with bureaucratic roadblocks. Peru no longer feels like home to her. Salvador has come to terms with his traumatic childhood, endure the pain of indentifying his father’s remains, and fight severe depression as he becomes a father and worries that he is not up to the task. Jerry has to deal with the discovery of a half-brother as he comes to the realization that he never really knew his father.
Tobias delves into a number of complex moral issues. For example –Is it better for a country and its citizens to move forward and forget the past, or face its crimes? How should reparations be distributed – by general category or according to individual circumstances? Should memorials be build at all and, if so, what should they be like and whose voices should they represent?
Tobias doesn’t tie things up neatly because the reality is that things don’t always get resolved. However, she does hint at a way forward at the end of the book – family. “In this family our stories count,” the main character says.
Tobias has written a serious, ambitious and intelligent book which explores the long lasting trauma endured by those forced to flee their homes because their lives are threatened by war and violence. One has only to look to Afghanistan and Ukraine to see that its relevance reverberates beyond Peru.
I hope you have a chance to read the novel and then come back to discuss it. And if you are so inclined please post a review!
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