A lush, Latin family affair
With a lyrical voice and vibrant descriptions, Carolina De Robertis brings the stories of three generations of dynamic women and a period in Latin American history to life in her impressive debut novel, The Invisible Mountain.
The tale kicks off on the first day of the 20th century, as an apparent miracle takes place in the Uruguayan countryside: a girl who had disappeared as an infant mysteriously reappears in a tree when she is almost one year old. After she seems to fly from the tree into her aunt’s arms, she is christened Pajarita (Little Bird). Thus begins a narrative that spans the next 90 years, as De Robertis tracks the fascinating lives of Pajarita, her daughter Eva and granddaughter Salomé, and brings her readers on a journey through the tumultuous histories of Uruguay and Argentina.
De Robertis took eight years to research and write her first novel, and it is easy to see why—she is meticulous with the details on everything from the political and cultural transformations in Uruguay’s capital city, Montevideo, to the revolutions of Evita Perón’s Argentina.
The facts blend seamlessly with the fiction as the reader becomes intimately acquainted with the three women, each of whom handles severe adversity with amazing strength: Pajarita watches as her husband turns to gambling, whoring and alcohol while she struggles to support her family in Montevideo by selling healing herbs. Eva is pulled out of school to labor at a shoe shop at the age of 10; she deals with horrific sexual abuse at the hands of her boss before eventually fleeing to pursue freedom and poetry writing in Perón-era Argentina. And Salomé’s story is the darkest of all; her radical zeal leads her to join the Tupamaros revolutionaries in Uruguay—with utterly disastrous results. The descriptions of her imprisonment and torture are stark and disturbing, but they work to make her story the most compelling of the three.
The Invisible Mountain is a poetic and absorbing generational epic that pays tribute to a colorful culture and amazing history. De Robertis is a promising young writer, and we can only hope there is much more to come from her.
Rebecca Stropoli writes from Brooklyn, New York.