Thursday, June 19, 2014

Chasing the Sun - Natalia Sylvester

Chasing the Sun
This post has a giveaway at the bottom! Don't miss your chance to win a copy of Chasing the Sun by Natalia Sylvester! You can enter every day for a week and get an additional entry each day!

Over the past year, I have developed a great working relationship with TLC Book Tours. I am so thankful for the unique works they have brought to my attention. I am always excited to get an email from Lisa or Trish offering a new book to try.

Chasing the Sun by Natalia Sylvester is one of those books. I think somewhere along the way someone compared it to Gone Girl. Even if no one else had made that connection for me, there is no doubt I would have linked the two in my mind. 

Sylvester's novel is very different from Gillian Flynn's best seller, but the story lines start off in a similar way. My conditioning for Flynn's work kept me waiting for a huge twist that never came. I'm a bit ashamed of that, as Sylvester's book stands lovely on its own.

The story starts off when Marabela Jimenez doesn't come home one night. Her husband, Andres, initially thinks she has left him...again. The next day, however, he receives a ransom note in the mail. 

Chasing the Sun deals beautifully with the emotions experienced during a kidnapping. Sylvester explores Andres' experience most deeply, but she also spends time with the two children, the maids, some other characters, and, eventually, Marabela herself. The book is not necessarily quick moving, but the magnetism of the character's emotions is irresistible. It's a situation few of us will ever be in and no one wants. To see some its affect on people is fascinating.

I have to admit, I was initially disappointed in the ending. I think we all hope for a happy ending, so when an author presents anything else, we are caught off guard. Sylvester does not offer the ending you think you are going to get. Instead, she shows broken people and how the kidnapping facilitated decisions that had been a long time coming. I guess you could view it as a happy ending in some ways, but its certainly not an unconditionally happy one.

Chasing the Sun is complex, but a worthy exploration of the human response to crisis. It does not have the action that you may expect from a kidnapping novel. Instead, Sylvester chooses to focus on the characters, a decision for which I can never fault an author.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity for a short Q&A with Natalia Sylvester. Thanks so much to her for taking the time to answer and to TLC Book Tours for coordinating.

Q&A with Natalia Sylvester
Natalia Sylvester
RWR: I understand Chasing the Sun was inspired in part by your own family's experience. How much did you draw from that and how much of the story came from your imagination?
NS:The spark of the story and the questions I was hoping to answer as I wrote it came from my family's experience. When I was 3 and still living in Lima, my grandfather was kidnapped for ransom and held for nearly 60 days before he was released. I always wondered what an experience like this does to someone, not just during but after, and how it affects the family members, who are also victims in their own way. But it was important for me to create new characters who'd take on a life of their own, so Andres, Marabela, Ignacio, Cynthia...all the characters are fictional, as are their motivations and desires (and as a result, the plot). But looking back I've realized that parts of Andres, like the fact that he's a businessman who created so much out of so little, were inspired by my grandfather. That's what I love about reading and writing fiction: a made-up story can often surprise us by how much truth we find in it. 

RWR: I loved the way you dealt with the emotional complexity each character experienced. Were some characters more difficult than others to connect with in this way?
NS: Thank you! Those are words every writer hopes to hear :) I'd say each character presented his/her own challenges. Andres is someone whose choices in life I don't necessarily agree with, but I loved the idea of setting aside my feelings towards him in order to explore how someone like him reacts when his entire world is shaken to its core. Marabela initially was difficult to write because she's absent for much of the story, but I wanted it to feel like she was missing. I wanted her absence to be blatant and uncomfortable, because when a loved one is taken from you, all you feel is them gone. So I had to find ways for readers to get to know her through Andres, who of course, has his own biases. I think the person whose emotions I felt I could access right away was Lorena, Andres's mother, because she doesn't really have a filter. She has her grudges and bitterness and they're always right at the surface. With her, the challenge was later on, getting to her softer side.

RWR: What made you choose to end the book the way you did?
NS: It's what felt true to the characters and to the story. I know with every story it seems there's a myriad ways it could end, but when you've been writing a story and getting to know the characters for years and you finally get to the end, suddenly none of the other options really feel like options. I wanted to choose the ending I'd believe, and especially with this story having roots in real life, I wanted to respect the reality of an experience like a kidnapping. So my goal wasn't necessarily to have a happy ending, but one that shows there's still hope to be found, even in our darkest times.

RWR: Not including your own work, do you have a book recommendation for myself and my readers?
NS: A book I often still think about is The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano. Originally published in Italy and then translated to English, it's the first novel by Giordano, who's a professional physicist. It takes the idea of prime numbers—numbers that can only be divided by themselves and by one—and embodies it in two characters, Mattia and Alice, who are both lonely but kindred souls. It's a beautifully-written, sometimes heartbreaking but overall hopeful work about the power of friendship and finding each other.

Pages: 304
Date Completed: May 30, 2014

*To read others' thoughts on Chasing the Sun, check out the full tour schedule.*


  1. The Tulip Rose by Jennifer Donnelly is a character driven novel which was memorable and special. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. I'll have to check it out! Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. I often avoid certain genres of book - like action and sci-fi - because I think they have a tendency to put more emphasis on plot and less on character. Its always nice to read a really character centered novel.

    1. I'm always a bit wary of certain genres as well. We do a lot of action audio books on car trips because Kevin needs the explosions to stay interested and doesn't care as much about the characters. I'm constantly searching for something that will keep us both happy.

  3. I like the idea of focusing more on the characters than the events in a story like this so I know I'd enjoy this book.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.