Last year I read John Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat, and I’ll admit that I picked it up purely because the title caught my attention. I ended up not only loving the story, but Steinbeck’s writing.
How did I make it through all of my Honors English classes without being forced to read at least one of his works? … Well, I guess better late than never.
So this year I decided to read Of Mice and Men. (I like to mix a few classics into the new fiction that I read.)
Reading this book as a writer is fascinating because Steinbeck breaks “the rules” but he does it beautifully. While reading Of Mice and Men, (and also Tortilla Flat), I wondered how Steinbeck researched before writing. How did he manage to replicate so perfectly the language and lifestyle of migrant laborers?
My answer came at the back of the book in the “About the Author” section.
“John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California, in 1902. His first three books were financial failures, and he worked at various kinds of jobs to survive, including fruit picking…”
A good reminder for writers to “write what you know”.
Victoria Torres is an Argentine American woman who still lives at home. A slightly over-weight college drop out, Victoria works at her father’s restaurant – a gathering place for the Argentine community in Burbank, California. Lacking direction in life and self esteem, she’s shocked when a fellow Argentine American boy she grew up with comes back to town and takes an interest in her. Eric is handsome, successful and they share a common history, but what is he doing back in town, will he stay, and what does he see in Victoria that she can’t see in herself?
Evenings at the Argentine Club by Julia Amante brings something unique to a genre saturated with stories of Mexicans and Cubans, (not that I don’t enjoy those stories as well!) The first few chapters were a little slow going, but it soon becomes an unpredictable page turner as one becomes emotionally invested in Victoria and Eric’s turbulent but passionate courtship. (Some scenes are borderline Romance novel material but she pulls it off leaving the reader wanting more.)
The story of Victoria and Eric’s budding romance is contrasted by the crumbling marriage of Victoria’s parents, Victor and Jacqueline. Amante is successful at weaving the two together and demonstrates a superb ability of being able to get into each character’s heart and show us what they’re feeling – from a stubborn, overly macho father and husband, to his lonely heart-broken wife who struggles with his infidelities, empty nest syndrome, and her stifled dreams.
I found myself identifying equally with young, insecure Victoria as she falls in love as well as her wise mother Jacqueline who mourns her grown children and is frequently a victim of nostalgia and loneliness. Emotions are so well described in this book that I will admit to shedding a few tears.
This is a really beautiful story that touches on many common themes such as sacrifice, marriage, love, confidence, family, and independence. But what I found most interesting in Evenings at the Argentine Club were the more unique thoughts on how different people define success, and how immigrant families with American-born children can achieve the American Dream while still remembering who they are.
Non-Spanish speakers will appreciate that Amante uses Spanish words judiciously throughout and always in a context that is easily understood, making Evenings at the Argentine Club accessible to everyone.
Filed under books, career, change, chick lit, culture, depression, dreams, family, marriage, men, opinion, romance, self esteem, Spanish, women, work