Review: The Rhythm of Memory by Alyson Richman

The Rhythm of Memory by Alyson Richman
Release Date: October 2, 2012 (reprint)
Publisher:  Berkley Trade Paperback
Pages: 416
Source:  Publisher

Octavio Ribeiro is a rising movie star in Chile when, at the request of famed poet Pablo Neruda, he agrees to serve as a media trainer in the presidential campaign of Salvador Allende. This involvement exposes Octavio and his family — especially his wife, Salomé — to the ruthless kidnapping and terror tactics of Allende’s political rival, General Augusto Pinochet…until they escape to political exile in Sweden, where another couple — Samuel and Kaija Rudin — are also living as expatriates.

Dr. Rudin is a psychiatrist specializing in treating people who, like Salomé, have been traumatized by the events of war and upheaval. As the Rudins and Ribeiros dance with destiny, each family must confront the secrets they have kept from one another — and face the personal consequences of their political choices. Rich with historical detail, and written in shimmering prose, Swedish Tango is an epic tale of two cultures that no reader will soon forget.


Review:  Ms. Richman once again has her characters tugging at my heartstrings. Originally written under the name of Swedish Tango we find ourselves involved in the lives of four people. Separate yet connected by the brutal acts that war can bring into the lives of those that are affected by it in a close and personal way.

This story made me sit up and think about the dynamics of a family ravished by the effects of war. What to do to mend the relationships in the family units. When balancing our lives isn’t enough because we have to deal with conflicts from wars; is there any way to find peace after all is said and done?

Ms. Richman took me on a journey into Chile where some militants want to overthrow the current regime. They are successful in taking out Socialist President Allende by killing him and waiting to step in to his shoes so to speak is Military General Pinochet.

Before I get to ahead of myself, I need to bring into view handsome Chilean movie star Octavio who took one look at beautiful Salome and fell in love. I love to learn how people meet and Ms. Richman does a wonderful job of spinning a magical meeting between these two people. Salome lives in a convent and her job was to go into the orange groves to gather the oranges. Octavio sees Salome one day, falling in love at first sight. Ahhhhhhh…you might say…romantic but, that isn’t the romantic part. Knowing she is coming to gather oranges he writes poetry on slips of paper inserting them in the navel of oranges. Now that is the romantic part. She finds them they kiss; the rest they say is history.

Octavio is hired to help Allende become more likable in public, which makes him a supporter of Allende’s views this of course doesn’t sit well with Pinochet. Pinochet ends up kidnapping Salome, abusing her. More than once which of course would put a stain on any marriage in normal times but throw in war, family, young children and it makes it hard to respond and heal. It also tends to make it hard to be intimate after what you have been put through because of your husband.

They end up exiling to Sweden where divorce, going your separate ways yet somehow still staying in each other’s lives because you have a connection through the children. After all you were each other’s first loves too.

I will let their story rest for a while not wanting to spoil too much of it. Moving onto Kaja, who at the tender age of two, travels alone on a boat with other children from Finland to Sweden. Throughout the whole trip as Ms. Richman tells us this story you can feel the heartache and fear of this young girl and the others. I felt that I was on the boat traveling with them. My heart was wrenched open with this experience. No one is there to meet her; no one wants this young girl. She does end up having a life, gets married to a Dr. Samuel Rudin. Once again not wanting to give too much away I will move on once again.

Because of the problems that Salome faced in Chile she ends up going to a psychologist by the name of none other than Dr. Rudin. (Yes, he is the same one that is married to Kaja). The relationship between the Salome and Dr. Rudin is brought into play as we see what it takes to work through the trauma that she endured; the cultural change along with the physical abuse and the guilt of just having survived. He tries to help her find peace, to be able to move on to the normalcy of life. I have to give a little spoiler; they have an affair.

Years later Salome is asked to testify against Pinchot which brings the past into the present. Needing support she turns to the one person who has loved her all these years never giving up and she finds that she has always loved him also.

There is so many things packed into the plot that you may think that it may seem rather hard flipping back and forth that most times you lose the reader. I found the transitions smooth as she navigated me through the storyline. She implemented the intertwining of their lives in such a way that no one character got lost in the story.

I found that this book was refreshing drawing me the reader in, grabbing at my emotions, pulling at my heartstrings making me stop and think as a women, wife, mother and friend.

Ms. Richman was very straight forward letting the reader know that not only is life beautiful but there are also many times that life can be brutal. She didn’t sugar coat the story instead capturing the richness of the wonderful souls that get lost at times because of the hand that fate deals to them. Throughout the story I was right there rooting for each and every one wanting them to find love, peace and hope.

“Can love-family-people in general, survive the brutality of war?” …Pick up a copy of Ms. Richman’s book, The Rhythm of Memory to find out. You just may find out that you too will be drawn into the beautifully written story of four people from different backgrounds and origins that are survivors.