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Evenings at the Argentine Club

by Julia Amante


Victoria and Erik were high school friends ten years ago. But Erik took off, and was gone for seven years. His mother, Lucia, was devastated. Victoria, on the other hand, still helps her dad, Victor, with his restaurant, wanting something more for herself, but not sure what. Erik’s return causes upheaval in the close, Argentine community, but especially in Victoria’s life.

At first, I was puzzled at Evenings at the Argentine Club. Other than one or two dispassionate comments about retiring to Argentina, author Julia Amante’s characters don’t convey much longing for what they left behind. The Argentine Club is simply a hangout for Argentine families: women gossip, men watch television or gamble, and children run around, hoping to stay out of trouble. Not much of a cultural agenda. I discovered Argentina wasn’t the point.

Naturally, the expected Latin machismo, although subtle, is evident. Rather than relegating it to background atmosphere, however, Amante keeps this before readers. The primary theme of Evenings at the Argentine Club is striving to balance independence and commitment in a contemporary world, without compromising respect for family, lovers, or traditions. This is where Amante’s writing shines. She fleshes out her characters with nuance, complexity, and compassion.

The tenuous relationship between Victoria and Erik involves a lot of soul-searching, honesty, and patience. But their relationship becomes the catalyst for change in their families. Dreams and expectations fall, while new dreams and opportunities supplant them, with the inevitable cultural shifts. Will Victoria and Erik, Victor and Jacqueline, and Antonio and Lucia absorb it all? Or, will it destroy them?

Evenings at the Argentine Club overdoes the soap boxing about independence, and lapses into predictability near the end; still, this book is an enjoyable and impressive debut novel by an author who understands both the privileges and obligations of family, and the needs of self.

The Book

Grand Central Publishing / Hachette
September 25, 2009
Trade Paperback
Women’s Fiction / Contemporary
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The Reviewer

Deb Kincaid
Reviewed 2009
© 2009