The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos

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Overview

Irene dos Santos disappeared at age 15. Believed to have drowned while on holiday with her best friend, Lily Martinez, her body was never found. Now, years later, she appears ghostlike in Lily's dreams, prompting a quest for the truth behind her disappearance. Mysteriously, Lily, eight-months pregnant with her first child, slips and falls on the same day that the statue of Maria Lionza, Patron Saint of their Venezuelan town, cracks in two. Confined to her bed, Lily is surrounded by her family and closest friends,...

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The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos

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Overview

Irene dos Santos disappeared at age 15. Believed to have drowned while on holiday with her best friend, Lily Martinez, her body was never found. Now, years later, she appears ghostlike in Lily's dreams, prompting a quest for the truth behind her disappearance. Mysteriously, Lily, eight-months pregnant with her first child, slips and falls on the same day that the statue of Maria Lionza, Patron Saint of their Venezuelan town, cracks in two. Confined to her bed, Lily is surrounded by her family and closest friends, who agree that a Novena to Maria Lionza will guide the baby's spirit safely into the world. Together, through their nine nights of prayer, each offers a story to entertain Lily and her baby. What emerges is a vivid picture of Venezuela during a time of revolution and uncertainty-and the unraveling of the mystery behind Irene dos Santos.

"The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos is an intricately woven tale of love and memory from a deeply talented writer."
—- Laila Lalami, author of Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits and Secret Son

"Mascarenhas uses a 15-year-old girl's disappearance to spin a multilayered history of a Venezuelan family, incorporating folklore, political intrigue and magical realism...This family epic is immersive; no character or event is left unexplored from multiple perspectives. Indeed, the conclusion is like the final piece of an intricate puzzle." —Publishers Weekly

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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Venezuelan novelist Mascarenhas's U.S. debut is a passionate and sweeping novel set against the backdrop of her home country's violent history, focused on the pregnant Lily, soon to deliver her first child. After suffering a fall and rejecting the suggestion of an emergency C-section, Lily returns home and is put on bed rest for the remainder of her confinement. To assist in the safe arrival of the baby, her family and friends begin a novena -- a nine-day period of prayer -- to honor Maria Lionza, a mythical character believed to light a path for lost souls.

Each night during the novena, someone from Lily's circle shares a story from his or her life. These stories celebrate love in various forms -- brotherly, sisterly, parental, and romantic -- as they demonstrate one's willingness to sacrifice when love is seen as the reward. And as the days of her confinement wind down and her labor begins, Lily's obsession with the mysterious disappearance of a childhood friend is slowly resolved.

Full of the magic, mystery, and full-bodied characters readers have come to expect of the best South American fiction, The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos is as luscious and rich as the culture it reflects, and will likely find a following among fans of Junot Díaz, Julia Alvarez, and Christina García. (Fall 2009 Selection)
Booklist
"Engaging and intricately woven....Whether dreams or real life, these are lyrical tales of love and the determination to survive in a country always on the verge of upheaval."
ChampagneLiving.net
"Powerfully adventurous in technique and style, intriguing and exotic in locale and history, this novel appeals to the sense like the passion flower that Mascarenhas uses metaphorically throughout the novel."
BookPage.com
" Exploring the tangled relationships binding mothers and daughters, best friends and lovers, Mascarenhas' magical novel is inhabited by an eclectic cast of characters whose lives are inexorably altered by the missing Irene dos Santos."
Laila Lalami
"The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos is an intricately woven tale of love and memory from a deeply talented writer."
Indian Review of Books on Skin
"In a book teeming with people, [Mascarenhas] manages to fix identities very firmly, with a fine sense of irony."
India Today on Skin
"Skin is a good book and Margaret Mascarenhas a writer whose prose has this superb ability to keep you shackled to the book to its very last page."
Elle India on Skin
"This debut novel is an engrossing tale of stories within stories, myths, dreams, legends, skeletons in closets."
From the Publisher
"Engaging and intricately woven....Whether dreams or real life, these are lyrical tales of love and the determination to survive in a country always on the verge of upheaval."—Booklist

"The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos is an intricately woven tale of love and memory from a deeply talented writer."—Laila Lalami, author of Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits and Secret Son

"Mascarenhas uses a 15-year-old girl's disappearance to spin a multilayered history of a Venezuelan family, incorporating folklore, political intrigue and magical realism...This family epic is immersive; no character or event is left unexplored from multiple perspectives. Indeed, the conclusion is like the final piece of an intricate puzzle."—Publishers Weekly

"In a book teeming with people, [Mascarenhas] manages to fix identities very firmly, with a fine sense of irony."—Indian Review of Books on Skin

"This debut novel is an engrossing tale of stories within stories, myths, dreams, legends, skeletons in closets."—Elle India on Skin

"Skin is a good book and Margaret Mascarenhas a writer whose prose has this superb ability to keep you shackled to the book to its very last page."—India Today on Skin

"Powerfully adventurous in technique and style, intriguing and exotic in locale and history, this novel appeals to the sense like the passion flower that Mascarenhas uses metaphorically throughout the novel."ChampagneLiving.net

" Exploring the tangled relationships binding mothers and daughters, best friends and lovers, Mascarenhas' magical novel is inhabited by an eclectic cast of characters whose lives are inexorably altered by the missing Irene dos Santos."—BookPage.com

Publishers Weekly

In her second novel, Mascarenhas (Skin) uses a 15-year-old girl's disappearance to spin a multilayered history of a Venezuelan family, incorporating folklore, political intrigue and magical realism. Charismatic and rebellious, teenage Irene Dos Santos goes missing while on vacation with her best friend, Lily Martinez, and her parents; she's introduced through Lily's meandering memories, which seem at first like a convenient exposition dump. However, Mascarenhas sticks to the shaggy dog style, passing her close third-person narration from Lily to eight other characters, including Lily's parents and a seemingly unrelated boy named Efraín. Other recurring themes tying together disparate plot strands: an underground political struggle, the legend of unofficial saint Maria Lionza, telenovela screenwriting and the act of storytelling (a Martinez family obsession). At times overwhelming in its breathless explosions of information, this family epic is immersive; no character or event is left unexplored from multiple perspectives. Indeed, the conclusion is like the final piece of an intricate puzzle. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446541107
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 6/19/2009
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 957,479
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret Mascarenhas is a consulting editor, columnist and novelist. She is the author of Skin, published by Penguin India in 2001, also published in French translation by Mercure de France in 2002, and in Portuguese translation by Editora Replicacao in 2006.

An American citizen of Goan origin who grew up in Venezuela, she currently resides in Goa, India.

For more information please visit http://mmascgoa.tripod.com/

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2012

    The book I read was "The Disappearance of Irene Dos Sa

    The book I read was "The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos" Margaret Mascarenhas. It was printed in the United States of America. Grand Central Publishing co. Hachette Book Group. 237 Park ave. New York, NY 10017. The first edition was June 2009. The theme of this book is kind of Mystery and adventure.
    This book is about a girl named Irene who is the new girl in school and a girl named Lily has to show her around. Then they become best friends. Both of them have different families. Irene’s family is not controlling and lets her do whatever she wants but Lily’s family is strict and doesn't let her do anything. Irene is definitely not the best influence on Lily because she teaches her how to French kiss at the age of 13. Lily got caught in the elevator kissing a boy and one of the teachers caught her. The teacher called her mom and Lily got transferred to a catholic boarding school. Her parents didn't want her seeing Irene anymore but they still saw each other without their parents knowing.
    A few years later Lily and her family decide to go on a family trip into the jungle and Lily can bring one friend so Lily wanted to bring Irene. Her family surprisingly agreed. While they were on the trip they wanted to go swimming in a lake. Only Lily came out and there was no sign of Irene anywhere. But the bad part is Lilt has no memory of the event. Fifteen years later Lily becomes 8 months pregnant and finds a letter praying to find out what happened to her friend.
    I personally thought that this book was just okay. Also I am not a big fan of reading so I don’t like a lot of books but it was one of the better ones. Mainly the reason why I liked this book was because it was about a girl who is around my age so I feel like I was able to connect more. But I am not really into adventurous books. From reading this book I learned a little more about Spanish like I learned more Spanish vocabulary like Irene Dos Santos means Irene two saints.
    I would recommend this book to people who like to read a lot. Many people who know a little Spanish like Spanish 1 would be able to comprehend the book a lot more or people who know a little about Venezuelan backgrounds. So yes I would recommend this book to people who like Spanish and would like to know a little more about a Spanish background.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2009

    The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos

    The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos is an intricate story based upon two childhood friends: Lily and Irene. Although they both had entirely diverse personalities, they quickly grew upon each other and eventually became inseparable. Out of the two, it was clear that Irene was the controller in the relationship, and when Irene's dare devil ways started to rub off on Lily, Lily's parents took notice immediately and separated the two by sending Lily off to a nearby Catholic school. However, their forced separation does not last long for when Lily's family decided to go on vacation and give Lily permission to invite any friend of her choosing, Lily unsurprisingly gives Irene the invite. While on the vacation Irene disappears and is believed to have drowned in a swimming accident, because Lily only remembers the bits and pieces of the incident and Irene's body was never recovered, the tragedy leaves Lily with constant uncertainty.
    Irene finds her way back into Lily's life by appearing in here dreams, these bizarre happenings motivate Lily to extinguish her one going curiosity of what really happened to her friend years ago on that holiday vacation. During the eighth month of her pregnancy Lily falls and is confined to bed rest, Lily is surrounded by her beloved family and her closest friends, during this time they each offer Lily and her a baby a story for entertainment. These stories slowly unravel the on going mystery of Irene Dos Santos.
    Without a doubt The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos was a brilliantly written story that I took much enjoyment in reading. The characters in the novel were well developed which in a way made the novel some what heart touching. The story line was filled culture and myth, learning more about the Venezuelan culture was more then pleasing and I took great pleasure in it. Although the novel was well written and had a great story I found it disjointed and hard to follow at times. When I was finished reading the story I immediately wanted to talk to someone and ask them questions for I wasn't sure if I fully understood the novel which took some of the fun out of it. This wouldn't be the first book I'd recommend to someone looking for a quick and easy read, however if your willing to take the time to read this novel and put some of your own interpretations into it, you'll certainly love it!

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  • Posted December 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos

    The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos is a novel based in Venezuela on the vanishing of fifteen year old Irene Dos Santos. Irene is the new girl in school and Lily Martinez is chosen to show her around. The two girls become best friends even though they lead vastly different lives. Irene is given much freedom from her parents who don't really control anything she does while Lily's family is more traditional with stricter morals. Irene becomes a bad influence on Lily when she teaches her how to French kiss and gets caught in the elevator kissing a boy by a teacher. Her parents become very upset and consequently forbid her from seeing Irene again and transfer her to a Catholic school.
    But when Lily is given the chance to take a friend on vacation, she quickly chooses Irene and her parents reluctantly accept. When the girls go for a swim across the lake, Irene disappears. Her body is nowhere to be found and she is thought to have drowned, although Lily finds this unlikely because she is a champion swimmer.
    Years later, Lily is eight months pregnant with her first child when she has a fearsome accident and becomes bedridden. Her family decides that they need to perform a Novena for the baby, which is nine days of prayers, each beginning with a different story by a different person. The stories involve the family's history and different religious beliefs involving Maria Lionza.
    The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos has an interesting layout where it is split up into different character's views of events. It becomes somewhat confusing at times between the different characters and it doesn't flow as easily as a regular novel would. Also, I thought that the main idea of the story would be the disappearance of Irene where really, the author tells about many different adventures of the different characters but manages to fit them all together in the end.
    What I did like about the novel is it was very well written with a great amount of details. Also, I liked how even though in the beginning, I didn't really understand the different stories, I liked linking them together and figuring out the little details that the author put in. In addition, I enjoyed the great deal of Venezuelan history and culture that the author utilizes throughout the novel. Before reading this, I did not know very much about Venezuelan customs and the culture, but now I have a vast knowledge of Venezuela including religious figures like Maria Lionza. Overall, I think that The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos has a very well written and thought out plot, but it can be confusing and hard to get into in the beginning.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2009

    Venezuelan entertainment...

    Appealing writing style, and tho characters not esp. compelling, they did seem "current.". Very entertaining if you are familiar with Venez. from '50's to present, but w/out such knowledge many of the names/places alluded to wouldn't mean much.

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