Chasing the Sun is a novel where the pieces are there, but they didn’t quite come together for me. The prose is appealing, and the premise is compelling: a woman, Marabela, is kidnapped by an insurgent group in Lima, Peru, and they are demanding ransom from her husband, Andres. Their family is upper-middle class, but Andres doesn’t have the kind of money they’re demanding, so he must scramble to liquidate any possible assets and cobble anything together that might save his wife. The catch? Before Marabela was kidnapped, their marriage was troubled. In fact, she had left Andres once before, but eventually returned for the sake of their children. For the first couple of days that she was gone, Andres thinks it’s possible that she simply left him again; it took the ransom note to explain otherwise.
So, all the while that Andres is desperately trying to collect money to save Marabela, he’s reflecting on his relationship. To put it bluntly, the two of them are clearly no longer in love, and there doesn’t even seem to be much of a genial companionship between the two of them either. Marabela exists on an independent plane from Andres, always busy with charity functions or other event plans, and he tiptoes around her, careful not to push her buttons or seem demanding of her time or attention. None of this affects the effort he’s putting into having her returned home, but the violence of her departure has him regretting that he took their marriage for granted.
This seems a pretty normal and human sentiment — you never know what you have until it’s gone, right? — but it rings false, because of the glimpses we see into the past of their relationship, it’s not ever really clear why they were together or got married in the first place. Even when they first get together, it didn’t really seem like they had strong chemistry. Basically they met through a mutual friend and were intrigued by the other, but there isn’t any depiction of a true attraction or romance. It’s an interesting angle: rather than Andres trying to save Marabela because she’s his true love, he’s doing it out of a sense of responsibility and guilt. Similarly, though he’s an emotional wreck, it’s as much because he feels like his safety and security are violated as because someone he loves was kidnapped. Unfortunately, though, this leaves the book without a real emotional core, and it doesn’t really go the other potential direction into the suggestion that Andres had any kind of conflict over tearing apart his life over a person he’s estranged from. Either one of those would have prompted a better emotional and psychological investment, but I couldn’t really spare much feeling for Marabela, the 2D printout of a wife who doesn’t care about her husband’s needs, or Andres, the suffering good-guy martyr.
I didn’t dislike this book, but I was disappointed because it didn’t seem like it lived up to its potential. The cover is really pretty though.