I received an advanced review copy of this book from Atria through NetGalley. This is an English translation of the original Spanish novel.
Blanca Perea has just found out that her husband of 20 years has not only left her for a woman 15 years his junior, but he is also having a baby with this other woman. In order to escape the inexplicable pain she is experiencing, Blanca leaves Madrid and accepts an appointment as a visiting professor at a small university in California. She is essentially running away from and avoiding her problems.
Blanca’s main task as a visiting professor is to sort out the papers and documents of Andres Fontana, a deceased professor of Spanish Literature. What begins, for her, as a bland secretarial position, turns into a excavation and investigation into the fascinating life of this professor. But I would argue that the central figure in the book is not Blanca, or even Professor Fontana, but it is Daniel Carter, the professor’s student. Daniel takes one of Professor Fontana’s classes at the University of Pittsburgh and gains an appreciation for the Spanish language and culture that changes his life forever.
A large part of the story describes Daniel’s year abroad in Spain while he travels, absorbs Spanish culture and has interesting experiences in a small Spanish town. Daniel learns important life lessons and comes to understand that there are vast differences between the American and Spanish cultures.
As Blanca is investigating Professor Fontana, Daniel lingers in the background to lend a hand and answer any questions about his former mentor. Daniel, we learn, has had to fight with his own demons in order to recover from grief and loss and he is instrumental in helping Blanca deal with her own emotional injuries. One of my favorite parts of the book is a scene in which Daniel and Blanca join another university faculty member named Rebecca for Thanksgiving dinner. Rebecca’s family is in a state of turmoil and Daniel delivers a heart-felt and wise speech before dinner in which he talks about moving forward, embracing life, and accepting those we love despite their faults.
I highly recommend THE HEART HAS ITS REASONS for anyone who might want a deeper understanding and appreciation for Spanish culture. This novel reminds us that there is always hope even when we feel at our lowest and life is always about moving forward.
About The Author:
Maria Dueñas holds a PhD in English Philology and is currently a professor at the University of Murcia. She has also taught at American universities, is the author of several academic articles, and has participated in various educational, cultural, and editorial projects.