BEYOND THE TIES OF BLOOD
By Florencia Mallon
June 6, 2012
In the tradition of Kiran Desai’s THE INHERITANCE OF LOSS and Julia Alvarez’s IN THE TIME OF BUTTERFLIES, BEYOND THE TIES OF BLOOD is a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit and the transcendence of family.
“Sometimes, one moment, one thing said or not said, done or not done, it changes everything. And not always for the better….Truth is that way sometimes. It can hurt more than a lie.” –Tonia
Mallon has written a powerful story about truth and reconciliation. The characters are memorable, the action intense and the emotional impact enormous. Readers will cringe and cry and cheer.
Set amid Chile’s violent 1973 military coup, BEYOND THE TIES OF BLOOD will both move you and frighten you. It’s about family, loyalty, politics, community, violence, despair, hope, but most of all, it’s about survival – and not just survival of the victim, but of the victims’ loved ones as well.
Our heroine, Eugenia Aldunate is in college, when she falls in love with a student activist named Manuel Bronstein. She doesn’t really understand all the politics involved, but love is blind and she follows where her lover leads. Manuel understands the dangers, yet like his grandfather before him, he is compelled to challenge the corrupt government. He tries to shield Eugenia as much as possible, but one fateful night the military police raid their small room. Both are imprisoned and tortured. Manuel “disappears” – a euphemism for murdered – and a pregnant Eugenia is released and exiled from her homeland. She takes shelter in Mexico, where her daughter is born, and where she becomes a respected journalist. They then move to the U.S., where Eugenia’s sister finds her a position as a college professor.
But the past will not be forgotten, not by Eugenia and not by the countless mothers, sisters and family members still in search of the “disappeared.” The Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared is formed, and Eugenia, one of the few survivors, is asked to return home and testify to the atrocities that occurred in the prison camps under the previous military dictatorship, specifically in Manuel’s case.
In exile for 15 years, Eugenia has always felt like an impostor for being nothing more than the girlfriend of a fallen hero and the mother of his child. She returns to a new democratic Chile, hoping to reconcile the past and the present, and to reconnect with her family and Manuel’s. But going home again is not as simple or as welcoming as she imagined.
Her mother is still a bitter woman, who in a moment of weakness confesses that she wished Eugenia had died so everyone would leave her in peace. Manuel’s parents are loving, but obsessed with the memory of their son. Her daughter Laura, 16, struggles to find her identity in this new Chile and Eugenia is powerless to help her. A potential lover is more in love with Eugenia the victim than Eugenia the woman. And, when a dark truth is finally revealed, all family bonds—real and imaginary—unravel, leaving Eugenia more devastated than ever.
To learn more about BEYOND THE TIES OF BLOOD, visit http://www.florenciamallon.net/.###
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Florencia Mallon was raised in Santiago, Chile, and the U.S. She was educated at Harvard and Yale, and is the head of the History department at the University of Wisconsin. She has written three non-fiction books about Latin American history, and has been awarded a Guggenheim and a Fulbright fellowship.