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The World in Half Hardcover – April 2, 2009

21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her debut novel, Henríquez, author of the short story collection Come Together, Fall Apart, explores the depths of love in an unconventional family and a foreign land. In suburban Chicago, young, unsure Miraflores finds herself caught between finishing college and caring for her mother, who has developed premature Alzheimer's disease. While tending to her mother, Mira uncovers a startling secret regarding her Panamanian father, long a forbidden topic; Mira had been told that he abandoned them prior to her birth, but there seems to be more to the story. To find him, and hopefully some perspective, Mira takes an extended vacation to Panama where he remains a citizen. There, Mira makes friends with elderly doorman Hernán and his young relative Danilo and,with their help, pursues every possible lead to her father. While Mira's quest for identity and family stability unfolds, the friendship between her and Danilo deepens, and soon she finds herself with feelings for the energetic, handsome, occasionally abrasive young man. A closely observed tale of relationships with some astute parallels between human interaction and subterranean geology, Henríquez's novel also benefits from a strong sense of place and plotting.
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From Booklist

Henríquez’s first book, Come Together, Fall Apart (2006), a striking collection of short stories set in Panama, elevated her to the hot-new-talent echelon. In her first novel, she infuses the quiet tragedies of a fractured family with conundrums of inheritance and identity. Henríquez’s appealing narrator, Mira (full name, Miraflores), a geophyiscs major at the University of Chicago and a good girl, tends to her single mother, who at 45 is assailed by early-onset Alzheimer’s. Mira knows nothing about her father, other than the fact that her mother had an affair while living briefly in Panama City, until she discovers a stash of passionate letters. Dumbfounded, desperate for family as her mother loses control of her mind, and hungry for understanding of her Panamanian heritage, Mira heads to Panama City with an old address and no plan. Seduced by the spaciousness of the novel, Henríquez gets bogged down in moment-by-moment minutiae, but her characters and their predicaments are compelling, her descriptions luscious, her humor tart, and her sensitivity to the emotional implications of a long-camouflaged bicultural legacy is exquisite. --Donna Seaman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (April 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159448855X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594488559
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,866,003 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Cristina Henríquez is the author of the novel The Book of Unknown Americans, forthcoming in June 2014, as well as the novel The World in Half, and the short story collection Come Together, Fall Apart, which was a New York Times Editors' Choice selection. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, American Scholar, Glimmer Train, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, AGNI, and the Virginia Quarterly Review, where she was named one of "Fiction's New Luminaries." She is also the recipient of an Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation Award. Henríquez lives in Illinois.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on April 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I found myself transported to Chicago and Panama, in turn, and entranced by the beauty that I found in this author's first novel.

Miraflores is a geology student at the University of Chicago - I was immediately drawn to the setting since I used to work at the hospital there. She was raised by a single mother who has been becoming ill, and while going through some of her mother's papers, Mira discovers letters from her Panamanian father. Letters that reveal a great love and a different story than the one she has heard all her life and that nearly brought me to tears. Hoping to find something in Panama for herself and for her mother, Mira plans a trip to Panama, without the knowledge of her mother. Mira is quickly befriended by the doorman at her hotel, Hernan, and his nephew Danilo, close in age to Mira. Mira explores Panama with Danilo, searching for her father, and finding herself in Panama. Mira returns home, changed on the inside, and moving forward with a new external life as well and all the struggles that come with it. The way she handles herself is beautiful, she has so much strength of character and the sense that she must do what must be done. There is suspense in this book, wondering whether or not her search will be successful, but at its heart this book is a story of characters, and a beautiful relationship that didn't turn out as I thought it would, but in actuality was more touching than I could have imagined.

Peppered with tidbits about geology and the building of the Panama canal, the setting varying from tropical and steamy, to blustery and cold, this is a quiet book in many ways but one that celebrates humanity and love. I just enjoyed the experience of reading it so much, it transported me, and I recommend it highly.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sheri S. VINE VOICE on April 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4.5 stars

The World in Half is about Mira (Miraflores), a geophysics major who has recently discovered old letters written to her mother from her father. Although Mira's mother had always told her that her father never wanted a child and abandoned them, the letters told a completely different story. Her father wrote about his love and devotion to her mother and it was revealed that once he found out she was pregnant, he was excited to be a father. Mira is confused by this contradiction and wonders why her mother had lied to her. Mira is unable to confront her mother about it because she has early-onset Alzheimer's and besides, she knew her mother would never tell her the truth. Mira hires a nurse to care for her mother and heads off to Panama City to find the father she never knew. Once there, Mira questions her impulsive decision, which went against her usual rational behavior. One morning she encounters a young man who piques her interest and after hearing her story, volunteers to help her find her father. What starts off as a trip to meet her father ends up turning into a journey of self-exploration and self-discovery. Mira learns a lot about herself and struggles to come to terms with her own identity.

The World in Half is a beautifully written story that has a certain underlying magic to it. The characters are first introduced as one-dimensional, with simple thoughts and emotions. However, once the novel progresses, their depth and complexity become apparent and there is more to them than meets the eye. The plot itself it interesting, but I think the most compelling thing about the book is its quiet hold over the reader.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By B. A. Chaney VINE VOICE on April 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"The World in Half" follows Miraflores a college aged girl from Chicago as she travels to Panama to find her father, and her past. All Mira knows about her father is that he was from Panama and he worked at the canal--her mother, who returned from Panama disgraced and pregnant with her, never shared the details of her parentage. After arriving in Panama City, Mira befriends a worker at the hotel where she is staying Hernan, and his nephew, Danilo. Together with Danilo, Mira will not only learn the truth about her father, but also about her mother and herself.

The World in Half is beautifully written, especially for a first novel. Henriquez transports her reader to Panama City, describing everything from the vastness of the canal to the poverty in corners all over the city. Her use of geology--Mira's academic love--as a metaphor for Mira's life works nicely as a framing technique and feels original and natural. The novel asks questions that it doesn't quite come out and answer for the reader, which leaves you thinking about this novel once the story is over.

I would recommend this book to someone looking for an interesting and relatively quick read. It was an enjoyable one, and I'm looking forward to seeing more from Henriquez.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By amr on May 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I had read Cristina Henriquez's first book, Come Together, Fall Apart, which was beautiful--chock full of fascinating characters and beautiful images. So, I was expecting the same from her second book and I'm happy to say I wasn't disappointed. The story of Miraflores's search for her father and, ultimately, herself is wonderful. One of the most captivating aspects of the novel is the relationships: her relationship with her mother, with her Panamanian friends Danilo and Hernan, and with Panama itself, which is so well depicted I feel like I've been there even though I haven't.

This is a story about identity and loyalty and love. And geology, that rockiest of subjects! It's hard to put this book down because you want so badly to find out not just whether or not Mira ever finds her father, but whether she ever finds the answers to some of the larger questions floating around her life: whether or not she'll be able to survive her mother's illness, whether she will ever open herself to the possibility of love, whether, finally, she will be okay, in the largest sense of the word. You have to read it to find out...
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