Love with a capital `L'. Not a sappy novel though. No. This is a well-structured, finely written romance. It made me look up Kalaw (Burma) where most of the story is set, on the map. It made me close my eyes, in the attempt of almost identifying myself with the protagonists, following them through their walks. An invisible witness to their feelings, breaths, existences. Opening up to life. Falling in love.
A short synopsis and no spoilers: Julia Win, a young lawyer from upscale New York, starts looking for her father, Tim Win, of Burmese origin, a prominent lawyer himself, who disappeared without a trace four years before. A working appointment missed, the trail of his last steps going cold and colder. Now frozen. He is never seen again. His wife and children, including Julia, gradually resign themselves to his disappearance, not without some inner battles. The feeling of abandonment mixed with bitterness never leaves Julia. One day, she finds a very old letter written in the 1940s by his father to a certain Mi Mi in Burma. An address in Kalaw is all she needs to follow her instinct and hop on to a plane in search of her father. Will that old letter, folded and refolded several times, be the key to her father's disappearance? Once in Kalaw, she is approached by a gentle but strange man, U Ba, who seems to know her although they have never met before. He also drops hints that he knows of Tim Win's whereabouts. Surprised and confused, Julia starts listening to the unfolding of an incredible story. Is U Ba really talking about HER father, covering the first twenty years of his Burmese life that nobody, not even his American wife, ever learned about? What was going on here? But she did not travel so far for nothing and U Ba's words lead to a touching, moving journey that will change Julia forever.
Like I stated above, I do not intend to spoil the story with too many details. Suffice it to say that it spans from the 1950s up to nowadays and it will take you from upscale New York City to Kalaw, an impoverished location in Burma. The narrative flows beautifully, poetically. There may be several romantic clichés but they fit in perfectly, without blemishing or rendering the narrative banal or overly-sentimental. What is also interesting, is the accurate, vivid description of this remote place, Kalaw, its colours, sounds, scents. Most locals impregnated with superstitious beliefs which could definitely change someone's life for better or worse. A touch of magic realism (just a touch) reminiscent of Garcia Marquez's novels, fits in charmingly. Definitely 5 (or more!) Amazon stars.
The main theme explored is, of course, Love. Not just the filial one between father and daughter. True love between a man and a woman. How it fluoresces, changes and haunts whomever is touched by its wonderful spell. How, because of, and thanks to it, the human being is able to endure anything. Anything at all.