Chasing the Sun: A Novel

Chasing the Sun: A Novel

by Natalia Sylvester


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544262171
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 06/03/2014
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.18(d)

About the Author

Natalia Sylvester was born in Lima, Peru, but grew up in South Florida, where she received a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Miami. Her work has appeared in Latina, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer.

Read an Excerpt


Day 1
He is always thinking of the last words he said to her—thank you, see you at dinner, rarely a simple I love you—as if they were status reports to a colleague, a quick memo to see where they stand. Andres always speaks last; Marabela has never cared for last words because her power lies in silences. When he calls to say he’ll be home late from work, he waits several seconds for her to respond. In that time, he tries to guess what she’ll say next, his thoughts teetering from hope to dread, and when she finally speaks, her words land flatly in the middle.
   “You promised you’d be home for dinner. We haven’t sat down together in weeks. Can’t work wait?”
   He tries explaining why it can’t. Andres is already on his way to meet with the president of one of the largest canned food manufacturers in the country, hoping to convince him to switch the printing of his labels to his company. The meeting is about more than business; it’s about setting a good example for his son. “Even if I could reschedule, I’ve already picked up Ignacio from school. You know how much it means to me that he come along.” He wonders if Marabela still remembers (if she even still cares about) the stories Andres used to tell her of how he started shadowing his father when he was only nine. Ignacio is already sixteen, and today will be the first time he sees his father in action. It’s time he learned about business, responsibility, and confidence—things he won’t absorb sitting in a classroom.
   Marabela sighs in that half-resigned way she always does when she knows there’s no arguing with him. “Fine, but why does it have to take so long? Just finish early and come home.”
   “I left a few reports on my desk. I’ll need to go back for them after the meeting.” His company’s projected earnings for the next several months will need to be adjusted if he lands this new client, and it’ll be a nice way to demonstrate to his son that hard work adds up. “It shouldn’t take more than half an hour.”
   “It’s just that I don’t like asking the girls to work late. They have their novela at eight. It’s the least I can do.” Marabela sounds hesitant.
   Andres scoffs. It’s ridiculous that his household schedule is dictated by a soap opera. Is La Perricholi really more important than his and his family’s time together? “You ask more of me than you do our own help,” he says.
   “Por favor, Andres.” She sounds tired, always so tired, of arguing with him. “Don’t make me seem like the unreasonable one when I’m just trying to be fair. They shouldn’t have to work late just because you do.”
   He can sense the conversation going nowhere—just more hurtful words and no solutions. As usual, he’s overcome by an urge to take it all back and start over. “What if you pick up the papers for me? Could you do that for me?”
   “Right now? I wasn’t even planning on going downtown. I was just on my way out to the pharmacy to get Carla’s medication, but your office is completely out of my way.”
   Picking up medication for the maid is going completely out of the way, too, he thinks. “But I’d be home for dinner. Isn’t that what you want?”
   The line goes silent as she considers.
   “Only if you promise you’ll be home for dinner on time.”
   “I’ll do everything I can.”
   She doesn’t agree or disagree. She simply hangs up.
   For months now, they’ve moved past good-byes, but the conversation leaves him feeling unsettled. He thinks about calling her back and saying forget about the papers, but perhaps he’s making a big deal out of nothing. Marabela often runs errands downtown. Why should a man have to be so careful with his wife that he can’t ask for a simple favor? Would she really leave him over a stack of forgotten papers, over a tie that needs straightening? Lately he has tried not to be needy, but the truth is, a husband has needs. Every marriage does, especially theirs, yet they’ve gone months, maybe years, ignoring this simple fact.
   The driver turns a sharp left and Ignacio gets pushed against his father in the backseat. They can already see the factory up ahead, its perimeter enclosed by a thick sky-blue wall. The security guard at the entrance asks to see their national identification cards, jotting down their names and license plate number before letting them in. As the gate rattles open and they pass under the factory sign, Andres points to the long, stocky building up ahead.
   “Manuel Orozco started out canning just olluco, precut in strips and chunks,” Andres tells his son. He remembers what the packaging looked like years ago, with its red and white stripes and several of the root vegetables in the center, as if someone just wrapped the Peruvian flag around a can and slapped a picture of its contents on the front. The design hasn’t changed much, and the printing quality is atrocious. “They do all sorts of fruits and vegetables now. Peaches and peas and choclo. But the olluco is what they’re known for, and they really need a label that’ll bring out its bright yellow color to catch people’s eyes.”
   “Is that what they called you for?” Ignacio asks.
   He adjusts his tie and grins. “Well, it’s what I called them for.”
   They’re greeted by Manuel and his wife at the front steps of the factory, then led through its heart, full of rows and rows of workers in hairnets and aprons filling an endless line of naked cans with food. A small conference room upstairs overlooks the machines and assembly lines, and once inside Andres can see his son is mesmerized by their perpetual motion. He hands him his suitcase, hoping to redirect his attention to the client.
   “Never too young to start learning to be more like his father, right?” Manuel says.
   “Hopefully not too much. I suspect he’s gotten most of his best qualities from his mother.”
   Manuel’s wife laughs and asks how Marabela is doing. The women know each other from a mutual acquaintance, and when the couples last ran into each other at a dinner party, Andres seized the opportunity. From the way Lara spoke about the company, he could tell Manuel’s wife was the one he’d need to convince at this meeting, despite her lack of an official job title. He’d hoped Marabela would come with him to the meeting to help make a good impression.
   “She’s so sorry she couldn’t make it. She was really looking forward to seeing you again,” he says.
   “Tell her I said hello and that I hope she feels better,” Lara says.
   The meeting goes better than expected. Manuel tells them all about the history of his company and what they’re planning on doing next. He asks if Andres’s company has ever handled this quantity of canned food products, and Andres jokes that lucky for Manuel, they’ve had plenty of practice on smaller competitors. He has Ignacio hand out printing samples from his suitcase, and the vibrant colors and glossy finish seem to impress them. Lara runs her fingers over the paper, which pleases Andres immensely. It’s meant to be touched to be fully appreciated; his ink never runs.
   On their way back to the car Andres bets his son that Manuel will call soon, possibly in the next week or two, but Ignacio seems more interested in Lara.
   “Why did she think Mom doesn’t feel well?”
   “It’s nothing. It was just easier to tell them that than say your mother wasn’t interested in coming.”
   “Why would she come?”
   He sighs, unsure how to explain the less concrete aspects of business. “Sometimes those kinds of things help the situation along. A man like Manuel wants to know the person he’s about to do business with shares his values. That he’s a good husband, a family guy. That he can be trusted.”
   Marabela tired of this early on in his career, saying it made her feel like she was showing off their marriage for profit. Andres hopes his son won’t ask for further explanation, but he only nods and says, “Can’t really blame her for not being interested.”

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Chasing the Sun: A Novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Andres and Marabela don't have a history of the best relationship, so one day he comes home and she is not there and some may not agree with his non reaction, but after their history is explained the reader understands why he may not be so worried. Set in a time and place where kidnapping wealthy relatives is common and ransoms are serious. Andres ends up hiring someone to talk him through the process and until the very end I couldn't trust this guy - let me know if you could trust him from the beginning? Without spoiling, the book is divided into two parts, the kidnapping and the days after Marabela returns home. I appreciated that the author included this time as to show how life is after the victim returns home and the family must start a new chapter after this horrific episode. A book out of my comfort zone and sometimes it is nice to read something from left field. One of the hard things about reading this book was the quick change to the past and a story that supports the greater story, but the jump into the past was a little fast. After the back story is shared, there is then a jump to the present. A book that reminded me of a movie and I could see it clearly on the big screen.
LAlber More than 1 year ago
This debut novel was a perfect balance between a page-turner and a wonderfully written literary novel. In fact, I'd call CHASING THE SUN a literary thriller. Natalia Sylvester paints a portrait of the Jimenez family in Peru that is so specific and so true that the story becomes universal. We can all connect to poor Andres, struggling to do the right thing; to his kidnapped wife, who has been unhappy for awhile; to his daughter, who doesn’t understand what’s going on but just wants her mom; to his angry son on the edge of manhood. The specifics about life in Peru lend this novel it’s uniqueness at the same time that it sets the story in a time and place that opens our eyes to what families just like ours live through in strife-ridden, third-world countries. I loved the interplay between the universal and the specific in CHASING THE SUN.
Susan725 More than 1 year ago
CHASING THE SUN, the debut novel from author Natalia Sylvester, is the story of a struggling marriage literally cleaved down the middle when the wife is kidnapped in Lima, Peru in the early 90s. Sylvester's writing is crisp and succinct, and she builds suspense along with realistic characters. What I loved most about this book was that it depicted ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances. I won't spoil the ending, but will just say that this book kept me turning pages late into the night, needing to know what came next.
quaintinns More than 1 year ago
Natalia Sylvester’s debuts with CHASING THE SUN, a novel with a balance of suspense, and family drama, set in Lima, Peru, during the 1990s during a time of political and social turbulence. The author’s inspiration for this novel—her grandfather's kidnapping; she conveys to readers how trauma has the power to make them stronger, as they mend the past, and uncover deep secrets and truths. I chose to read the audiobook version, as loved Peter Berkrot,the narrator in Desperate, as he has a distinct chilling, yet evil like voice, which grabs your attention. Combined with a troubled marriage, a kidnapping, a ransom, a past, and a city where the poor struggle and the wealthy live in gated communities to protect their families from evil—the making for a riveting novel; however, the kidnapping seemed very long and drawn out. The first half dealt with kidnapping and the second half was more of the aftermath. I did not seem to connect with the characters, as a little of a disconnect, with more of a domestic family drama, versus an intense suspense thriller. All in all, it was not a bad book; however, it did not particularly wow me, either.
LRaderDay More than 1 year ago
You know how some people love horror movies and then watch them through their fingers, yelling Don’t go into the basement, you idiot? That’s how I read books with suspense in them. And just like the people who keep the horror film industry running, I love to be horrified by a character’s actions, even to watch something terrible unfold that was telegraphed early on. That’s suspense, in a nutshell. To create suspense in your reader, the reader has to know what could happen. They need to know what they should be worried about. Natalia planted the news of the kidnapping early in the first pages of her novel so that we could all get good and amped up for everything to follow. We may not know Lima or Peru very well, but we understanding the precariousness of kidnapping. We know the terrible things Andres is worried about. Because of Natalia’s skill as a writer, we worry with him as well as about him—will he get it wrong? Will he cost his wife her life and his children their mother? Peek out from behind your fingers to read this one. You know you want to see what happens next.
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
Years ago I read Ann Patchett's haunting novel, Bel Canto, about a group of people kidnapped by terrorists at a party at the home of the vice-president in a South American country. I can vividly recall sitting on my porch mesmerized by the characters and the story. When I heard about Natalia Sylvester's debut novel, Chasing the Sun, which tells the story of an industrialist's wife's kidnapping in Peru, I was curious to read it. Sylvester lived in Lima, Peru and her novel is inspired by a family member who was kidnapped. In Peru, kidnappings are an almost common occurrence. Wealthy people live behind walls and gates, and many have security. Andres owns a label factory, and his family, wife Marabela, teenage son Ignacio and young daughter Cynthia live a good life. The children go to private school, and Marabela volunteers for many charities and is close to the women who cook and clean for them. Things between Marabela and Andres are not good. Four months ago Marabela disappeared, unhappy with her marriage. She returned because she couldn't leave her children. When Marabela doesn't return home after an errand, Andres fears she run away again. But this time Andres gets a call from a man; they have kidnapped Marabela and want one million dollars in ransom. Andres doesn't have that kind of money, and his wealthy mother sends over a man who helps people deal with kidnappers. As the story unfolds and Andres deals with the kidnappers and the facilitator, he tries to hide the situation from his children, his employees and their friends. He discovers that his childhood friend Elena is in a hospital after a suicide attempt following her own kidnapping. From her, he learns something shocking and saddening. Part two deals with the aftermath of the kidnapping. We don't have first hand knowledge of what happened to Marabela, we only get bits of the torment she suffered. Andres hopes that they can pick up the pieces of their life together and move forward, but Marabela isn't so sure she can or even if she wants to. I enjoy reading about places and cultures I don't have much knowledge of, and with Sylvester's growing up in Lima, we get an insider's view. I can't imagine living with the constant fear that you could be grabbed off the street. I also like reading about the Peruvian dishes, like tallarines verdes, a pesto-like sauce served with steak. It makes me want to read more about it, and maybe even make it for dinner. Chasing the Sun drops the reader into the lives of this upper middle class Peruvian family during a crisis. Although the kidnapping propels the story, this is a more personal story about a marriage unraveling. Andres loves Marabela and desperately wants to love the life they have build together, but things and people from their past come bubbling up to the surface and try to pull them apart. Fans of Bel Canto will find much to appreciate in this debut novel.