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Stranger

por David Bergen

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443576,607 (3.69)7
so Perdido, a young Guatemalan woman, works at a fertility clinic at Ixchel, named for the Mayan goddess of creation and destruction. so tends to the rich women who visit the clinic for the supposed conception-enhancing properties of the local lake. She is also the lover of Dr. Mann, the American doctor in residence. When an accident forces the doctor to leave Guatemala abruptly, so is abandoned, pregnant. After the birth, tended to by the manager of the clinic, the baby disappears.Determined to reclaim her daughter, so follows a trail north, eventually crossing illegally into a United States where the rich live in safe zones, walled away from the indigent masses. Traveling without documentation, and with little money, so must penetrate this world, and in this place of menace and shifting boundaries, she must determine who she can trust and how much, aware that she might lose her daughter forever.… (mais)
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This was such a mesmerizing story, told with such simple and delicate language. I think that is what really captured my attention and kept me interested in this story. We read this story through Íso, and we watch how she simply, yet aptly, portrays the world around her. She makes no excuses, she doesn't blame the world for her problems. She simply is. And as such, she enjoys what time she has, and assumes responsibility for the risks that come along with it. When she makes the decision to go for her daughter, it is with that same simple strength that she has kept with her throughout the story. That is what entranced me and left me in awe. How did this author manage to create such a simple character, and yet bring all of this complexity to the forefront? Somehow, he did, and the story is better for it. The summary that is provided here, as well as any summary you find of this novel, will tell you everything about the plot of the story; there are no surprises here. It is more about the journey that Íso (and you, as the reader) will go through in this quest. I was surprised that the author decided to make America a military environment, and I really don't think it added much to the story, but that is really my only criticism here. This novel introduces many complex issues, things like infidelity and the bond between a mother and her child, as well as the desperation that comes with infertility. Everything was given its due importance and it was all seen through a unique perspective. The situation that Íso finds herself in is not a unique one; it happens to women from poor countries all the time. Reading about this situation from the perspective of someone like Íso was fascinating; I always knew that losing a child in this way is terrible but actually reading about it with this depth of emotion brought a whole new meaning to it all. As you can probably tell from this review, I loved this book. It was insightful, powerful, and mesmerizing. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a story that revolves around an emotionally-charged journey that will change how you think and feel.

For more reviews, visit: www.veereading.wordpress.com ( )
  veeshee | Jan 29, 2018 |
In the highlands of Guatemala, visitors come to admire the three volcanos, quaint villages, the afternoon winds which are said to blow away sin, and the eighty four thousand year old lake. On the shore of the lake, there is a fertility clinic where rich, infertile women come to benefit from the supposedly therapeutic properties of the water. Íso Perdito, a twenty two year old woman from the village, works at the clinic as a “keeper”, a job which, through undressing, dressing, massaging and bathing them, requires intimate interaction with the clients; in fact she is expected to meet all the needs of any woman assigned to her care. Yet the job is one which also requires her to render herself invisible, something Íso, a well-educated young woman, is usually able to achieve with ease. She is able to do so because she has her own long-term goal – she is working to save money so that she can train to be a doctor.
However, the arrival of one particular client presents her with more of a challenge. Susan Mann is the estranged wife of David Mann, a doctor at the clinic with whom Íso has been having an affair. Susan is infertile and, in an attempt to save her marriage, has come to the clinic for treatment. When this has finished she returns to America, leaving Íso and David to continue their affair until he has an accident which results in him being returned to Susan’s care. When he leaves, in addition to feeling heartbroken, Íso discovers that she is pregnant but, in spite of strong opposition, is determined to keep the expected child and, when her daughter is born, she immediately falls in love with her. However, her joy is short-lived because by the following day the baby has been abducted and taken to David and Susan in America. Íso, unable to accept this, sets out on a long and hazardous journey, across three countries, to reclaim her daughter and bring her home.
This is an intensely moving story which explores not only the strength of the mother/child bond and the lengths someone will go to protect this, but also examines the inequalities between the rich and the poor, where the former hold the power and pay little heed to the needs or wishes of the latter. Yet the author presented his main character as someone determined not to be a victim of what appeared to be an unequal task; she was portrayed as determined to hold onto her dreams and to take risks in order to achieve them. I enjoyed seeing how she met each of the challenges she faced and how these helped her to discover inner strengths. I felt a sense of outrage when it felt as though there was any danger that she would not succeed, and an equal delight when she found ways to circumvent the obstacles which were frequently put in her way. Her mother had told her that wisdom doesn’t come from hearing about the lives of others and Íso has to learn the hard way who she is, and how to create her own life-story.
Through Íso’s eyes the reader is confronted with the sad, uncertain lives lived by illegal immigrants in the USA and is also able to explore the confusion experienced when people are thrust into unfamiliar situations in a strange country. Throughout the story-telling the author exposes the inequities which arise as a result of racial difference, gender inequality, the sense of entitlement displayed by so many rich white people and many related themes – just one of his powerful reflections was that it is necessary to have the poor so that everyone else can feel better! He painted a sad and disturbing picture of the impoverished, uncertain lives lived by the illegal immigrants, often living in close proximity to the privileged (as a result of the colour of their skin) people who employ them. He also reflected on the fact that these employers rarely acknowledge the cultures, education and experiences of their employees; the latter are there to be made use of, or to be discarded when no longer required. However, I very much admired the fact that he was able to achieve all this without allowing a political agenda to overwhelm this very human story.
This is the first novel I have read by this author and I was impressed by his elegant, economical use of language. Through his subtle interweaving of observations about people, customs and landscape into the narrative, he evoked very vivid images which made the story feel vibrantly alive. Every single one of his characters felt credible, with each having something to contribute to Íso’s physical and emotional journey. Without losing any of the power of his often poetic prose, he maintained a state of tension and intensity throughout his engaging, insightful and thought-provoking story-telling, ensuring that I was reluctant to put the book down once I had started it! As well as being a good personal read, I think that the themes explored would make this an excellent choice for reading groups. ( )
  linda.a. | Aug 9, 2017 |
4 1/2! This book was mesmerizing in so many ways. It explores the tie between a mother and child, and shows how far a mother will go and how much she'll endure to reclaim her child. The story is of youn Iso, a young Guatamalen woman who becomes involved with an American doctor who works in the fertilization clinic where Iso is a caregiver. The clinic is located right in amongst the Sierra Madre de Chiapas. The inevitable happens, and Iso finds herself pregnant and her doctor lover has gone back to the States with his wife. Iso has big plans for her unborn baby, but fate works against her, and she finds after one day that her baby girl has been taken. Iso knows that her lover and his wife have her so she sets out on a very long and arduous journey through three countries to bring her daughter home. The plot and the tension created in this book is unremitting, and Bergen does a wonderful job of character portrayal in all his characters, but especially young Iso. The only dissonance that I found in this wonderful story is the apparent distopian state of America. With no lead-up or explanation we find an America that has become a police state and that has been divided into numberred military zones. The book appears to be set in the present day right up until Iso crosses the American border, and then all of a sudden finds herself trying to navigate through a country that is goverened by armed guards and policemen. Very strange and I think not in character for the rest of this book But, in spite of that, this is a very compelling book and one very worthy of the Giller prize nomination. ( )
  Romonko | Sep 29, 2016 |
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Stranger is an engrossing human exploration of displacement and inequality in a world governed by greed....The episodic narrative moves quickly, drawing readers deeper into the margins of society where Iso must expose her vulnerability and place her trust in strangers; the suspense of which can often feels like watching a game of Russian roulette. Bergen paints a dire reality that isn’t far off from the current state of affairs in the United States
 
.. returns with a new novel that is arguably his best yet....Bergen plunks the reader into this tangled situation, with its heightened tension and thorny politics, right from the novel’s first page. From there, the story moves at full throttle, and Bergen does not take his foot off the gas until the last chapter. Stranger engages with complicated political issues and exposes class, gender, and racial oppression...But the novel never gets bogged down by its political agenda. Bergen has a remarkable talent for creating empathy – particularly for the character of Íso – and for keeping his plot zipping along with the speed and intensity of a first-rate thriller. The book manages the rare feat of being profound and important but at the same time absolutely gripping.
 
this book is inventive and electrifying...It takes a skilled and gutsy writer to so clearly overlay ancient frames with an item you might hear in passing on the news. That’s Bergen. He’s known for his clean prose and wonderful, startling observations, and this book has perfect pitch...Alongside Netflix, Bergen’s title also conjures up Camus, whose own titular French stranger murders an Algerian man for no clear reason. There’s murder here, too, and senselessness, and culture clash. But the book’s name also evokes the old adage about truth and fiction. Stranger is a brilliant and utterly convincing blend of both, and reminds us that even in the best-known stories, something unexpected is always lurking, if you go deep enough.
 
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so Perdido, a young Guatemalan woman, works at a fertility clinic at Ixchel, named for the Mayan goddess of creation and destruction. so tends to the rich women who visit the clinic for the supposed conception-enhancing properties of the local lake. She is also the lover of Dr. Mann, the American doctor in residence. When an accident forces the doctor to leave Guatemala abruptly, so is abandoned, pregnant. After the birth, tended to by the manager of the clinic, the baby disappears.Determined to reclaim her daughter, so follows a trail north, eventually crossing illegally into a United States where the rich live in safe zones, walled away from the indigent masses. Traveling without documentation, and with little money, so must penetrate this world, and in this place of menace and shifting boundaries, she must determine who she can trust and how much, aware that she might lose her daughter forever.

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