Award-winning Chilean author Marcela Serrano weaves a beautiful story about the universal connections between women.
For nine Chilean women, life couldn’t be more different. There is the teenage computer whiz confronting her sexual identity. A middle-aged recluse who prefers the company of her dog over that of most humans. A housekeeper. A celebrity television personality. A woman confronting the loneliness of old age.
Of disparate ages and races, these women represent the variety of cultural and social groups that Chile comprises. On the surface, they seem to have nothing in common…except for their beloved therapist, who brings them together. Yet as different as they all are, each woman has a story to share.
As the women tell their stories, unlikely common threads are discovered, bonds are formed, and lives are transformed. Their stories form an intricate tale of triumph, heartache, and healing that will resonate with women from all walks of life.
An International DUBLIN Literary Award Nominee.
I got this book in last year’s Amazon World Book Day giveaway and finally got around to reading it this June. Ten Women is available through Kindle Unlimited and comes with the audio. Unfortunately when I got it last year the audio wasn’t included.
The blurb talks about the lives of ten women intersecting in this tale set in Chile. Natasha is a leading psychiatrist and the nine other women are her patients who have all come together to share their stories of love, loss, grief, torment and challenge.
I don’t think the lives of these women are particularly connected other than through Natasha. Each chapter of the book focuses on the story of a different woman and chronicles her life leading up to engaging in therapy sessions. In that way, this book is more a collection of ten short stories than it is a novel.
Once I accepted that these were short stories as opposed to one narrative, I was able to enjoy each tale as it was told. Don’t expect any major resolutions to these women’s conundrums. After all, they are in therapy to help cope with their challenges. That said, most of them are clearly on a path of recovery. The stories tell each woman’s situation and difficulties leading up to meeting Natasha. Mental health issues can’t be neatly boxed up and ‘solved’. The resolution of each tale, therefore, revolves around the woman getting access to help.
Topics range from sad to distressing. Tales are spun around issues such as infidelity, incest, rape, aging, sexuality, PTSD and caring for persons with debilitating mental illness. Each woman’s story is a window into her personal trauma and an explanation of how she is willing and able to accept help.
I loved how much description of life in Chile, Santiago in particular, is brought into the narrative. I don’t mean pages waxing poetic about the beauty of the country. These women come from various walks of life so we see the elegance and style of the Alto Bario and then we are exposed to the less polished realities of life in Maipú. We are also taken to the Pacific coast, the Atacama desert and to the undisturbed countryside of Ñuble. Where these women live affect their experiences and so it is incorporated into the tale well.
Also, while not used as a soapbox, the novel takes swipe at the Chilean socio-economic system. Inaccessible quality healthcare is covered and it is revealed that Natasha takes on pro bono patients who are offset by those who can afford her services. Hence a poor, elderly lotto booth worker, still trying to come to terms with her husband having been ‘disappeared’ during the Pinochet years, receives attention from the same psychiatrist who helps a national television star.
Natasha’s own story is the last we read and it takes us all the way back to the Second World War and then to a remote Asian village. Her story may be a bit different from her patients’ but it too is full of loss and longing.
Ten women, ten lives, ten stories…. each bearing some similarity to one told before but each remarkably unique too.
I give this book 4/5 bold, rich espresso shots.