The World in Half by Cristina Henriquez
Published by Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin
During her sophomore year of college, when her mother begins succumbing to early onset Alzheimers, Miraflores makes a discovery that changes the majority of what she has always believed about her life. Although Mira is half Panamanian, she was raised exclusively in the United States by her American mother and she has always been led to believe that her father was not interested in being a part of her or her mother’s lives. The letters that she finds give lie to everything she has been told. Now Mira must discover the truth about her life and her family for her own sanity, so she is heading to Panama to search for the father she never really knew.
I know this must have been a good reading month, because I’m a little scared that you are all going to roll your eyes as I get all gushy about yet another book.
“The World in Half” is an absolutely beautiful book. The prose is just lovely, but this is not simply a book with beautiful language. Not a sentence is wasted, every word serves to support the story that Henriquez is telling and the development of her characters. In some ways, “The World in Half” is a family mystery, as Mira attempts to track down her father, but what was even more interesting was Mira’s journey to discover herself and her relationship with her mother.
Yet “The World in Half” is not simply the same old literary fiction story of coming of age and discovering one’s true identity, there are many aspects of the book that set is apart from others with similar classifications. Panama as a setting, of course, is not very widely used – in fact to my knowledge this is the first book I have ever read which has any portion of the book set in Panama. Henriquez did a fantastic job giving a sense of place to those of us who have been and may never go to Panama, I felt that I got a good feel for the national psyche, at least in the cities.
What made this book truly special, though, was Mira’s love for geology and geography, which she was studying in college. Sometimes when a character has some quirky trait – like talking about geology and geography whenever it fits even a little bit – it seems forced or quirky for quirky’s sake. Not so in “The World in Half.” Henriquez’s characterization of Mira was so well thought out and fleshed out that such comments seemed to be no more than a logical extension of exactly who Mira was. I never wondered why she would bother to say something like that, it always made complete sense and was completely in character. In addition, it almost always added something to my understand of how Mira sees and approaches the world. It was very well done and really took this book to another level.
Very, very highly recommended. I lurved it.
Cristina Henriquez’s website
Other Books by Cristina Henriquez:
“Come Together, Fall Apart” (stories)
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