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
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.