Arana writes of a middle-aged manís passion for a dancing girl he meets in a Lima nightclub. Her sure, seductive movements capture his imagination, propelling him into obsession. That Carlos Bluhm is forty-five and ripe for such temptation is undeniable, given his background and friends - all men of the world who balance work, family and home with their extracurricular pleasures. One friend openly supports a mistress, to the despair of the manís wife.
This is Lima, circa 1986, where class is everything. Of German descent, Bluhm lives with his wife and two sons in an elite part of the city, quiet, leafy streets untouched by the blight of poverty that exists elsewhere. A camera salesman by day who inhabits the inherited home of his father and grandfather, Carlos is not a rich man, but his wifeís frugal ways allow him the small luxuries he enjoys.
The girl is another matter. Juana Maria Fernandez is only fifteen, although age will not matter to a man desperate to win her affection. From the poorest quarter of the city, Mariaís instincts are almost feral, an innate urgency to escape the poverty dictated by class and the brown of her skin. Carlos is the answer to Mariaís nightmares: ďHe was the one who would rescue her from misfortune.Ē
To Bluhm, Maria is exotic and fascinating, a creature that fills his daydreams and alters the course of his life. Skillfully blending Bluhmís growing obsession with Maria and the demands of wife and children, the author sets the stage for tragedy. Carlos dedicates himself to the small concerns of his goddess, the small accommodations that become everything to a girl who sees this lover as a way out of a frightening future.
Against the background of a country in turmoil, homegrown terrorists everywhere at hand wreaking panic, fear and death, Bluhmís attempts to hide his affair backfire, his carefully constructed scenarios crashing down, his grieving wife and shocked sons left to deal with this manís insanity. Carlos cannot concern himself with their well-being, only thoughts of Maria filling his mind.
The besotted Carlos cannot resist the siren call of this young woman, regardless of the damage to his life and reputation. For her part, Maria is barely-educated, greedy, craving the security Bluhm offered his family. Her world is small, insular, without consideration for consequences of the fate of Carlosís wife and children. But given her age and experience of the world, Maria is only reacting to opportunity, terrified of repeating her motherís fate.
The attrition of time cools ardor, heated passions become intransigent behaviors as these two lives fall to pieces while clinging to the bright memories of a Lima nightclub. Twenty years later, passion has turned neurotic, suffocating, filled with barbed words and petty jealousies. Even then, the drama continues, the quest for that perfect moment when the world falls away and all that remains is love, the great folly of mankind.