45 pages • 1 hour read
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Isabel Allende’s In the Midst of Winter is a novel published in 2017 that follows the alternating perspectives of three immigrants whose lives become intertwined after a car accident during a snowstorm in New York City. This study guide refers to the Kindle edition of the novel.
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One night, during a brutal snowstorm in New York City, Richard Bowmaster is driving home when he accidentally crashes into Evelyn Ortega’s car. While he assumes it is a simple accident, Evelyn later reveals that the car belongs to her employer, the Leroys, and that she has taken it without their permission. With his tenant and colleague Lucia Maraz’s help, they surmise that Evelyn is undocumented and that returning the damaged vehicle to her employers would expose her citizenship status. With the snowstorm growing worse outside, Lucia proposes that they all spend the night at Richard’s home and prepare a plan to help Evelyn the next morning.
During this time, they each take turns telling stories about their immigrant histories. Lucia has come to New York City from Chile as a visiting professor, cancer survivor, divorcée, and political exile fleeing Chile’s dictatorship. Her brother is one of the many “disappeared people” of the military rule under Pinochet. Having grown up in Portugal, Richard lived in Brazil for years with his former wife and child before their passing left him bereft in New York City where he began an academic post. Meanwhile, Evelyn survived gang violence in Guatemala and witnessed the death of her two brothers while migrating to the U.S. in the hopes of uniting with her mother. When her status was exposed, she had to find new employment in another city and was separated from her mother once again.
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As the stories they share with one another become more intimate, Evelyn gradually reveals that the Leroys’ car also has the body of a dead woman in it. The dead body belongs to Kathryn Brown, who has been having an affair with Mr. Leroy. Suspecting that Mr. Leroy killed Kathryn for knowing too much about his involvement in a human trafficking network, Lucia, Richard, and Evelyn resolve to dispose of the body and car in a lake in upstate New York.
Along the way, Lucia and Richard fall in love. As they learn more about Evelyn’s life as well, they eventually realize that disposing of Kathryn’s body without allowing evidence of her passing to emerge would be devastating to Kathryn’s loved ones. Because they each have known loss and grief in their own lives, they revise their plan to place her body in a sacred institution nearby and to leave Mr. Leroy’s gun with the body to expose him.
Years later, Mrs. Leroy reveals that she is the one who accidentally murdered Kathryn. However, officials have already pinned the murder on Mr. Leroy and had used the evidence against him to implicate his involvement in human trafficking efforts. Meanwhile, Lucia, Richard, and Evelyn have each moved on with their lives. Evelyn finds new employment in Miami where she lives with Lucia’s daughter, and Lucia and Richard sustain a romantic partnership.
By Isabel Allende