Y de repente un ángel, by Jaime Bayly.
These are two stories, intertwined. One is about the protagonist, a young writer who keeps a messy house in Lima, Peru; the other, about the old cleaning woman he hires to keep his house in a state acceptable to his girlfriend.
Mercedes, the cleaning woman, is matter of fact about her past. When she was ten years old, her mother sold her to a military officer to work as household help because she couldn’t afford to feed all her children. When Julián, the writer, finds out about this, he decides to find Mercedes’ mother. At the same time, Julián comes to terms with his relationship with his own parents.
This is a story about relations, between parents and children, between social and economic classes, between the past and the present. It’s also both funny and tragic.
This is my first Jaime Bayly book and I wasn’t sure what to expect. From the reviews of his other books, I was expecting it to be one of those difficult “literary” books that I find hard to read in Spanish. The Premio Planeta Finalist banner on the cover only added to that impression. Instead, it turned out to be very accessible. Bayly’s excellent ear for dialogue helps get the reader right into the story.