This novel traces a family history through the strong women who shaped it. The story winds through Italy, Uruguay, Argentina, and the United States in an epic tale of three generations.
Pajarita begins the novel, an unwanted baby whose mother died in childbirth. Her tale has its roots in magic, as she is lost as an infant and then found again in a tree high above her village. Her story becomes a sacred family legend, repeated to children and grandchildren throughout the years. Pajarita's marriage is rocky at times, but succeeds in producing three sons and a daughter.
Eva, daughter of Pajarita, is forced out of childhood early, sent to work at the age of ten. She is shattered, pulls herself back together, and escapes her life only to be shattered anew. Her marriage is more for convenience than anything else, but blesses her with a son and a daughter, whom she loves with all of her being. Unlike her mother, who communes with plants and soothes the ills of those around her, Eva takes solace in words and poetry bursts forth from her, enlightening and scandalizing those around her.
Salome, daughter of Eva, finds herself electrified by the rebellion overtaking Uruguay and secretly joins the resistance. It is a choice which eventually carries a terrible price.
I really liked these women and their individual strength and dedication to their families. I was disappointed that there were no equally strong and noble male characters in this book, though; it seemed that men were constantly villains, from the abusive or alcoholic husbands and fathers to the oppressive and sexually abusive bosses, to the intolerant or ignorant elders, to the chronically disappearing brothers. Surely there must have been some worthy men in the lives of these women.
Overall, this novel was moving and heartwrenching, with some interesting history included to help the reader understand the motivations of the characters and how the local and national events influenced their choices. It was fascinating to see a family start with a single couple and gradually branch out over the generations. I was disappointed when it ended, and I'd look forward to reading more from this author in the future.