As the ‘trailing spouse’ of an American investment banker relocated to Brazil for his job, Emma becomes a detached social observer, mixing with other privileged women-who-lunch. Against a background of civil unrest, interracial and class conflict, this detachment highlights the disconnect between liberal empathy and real engagement: a vividly written and challenging message which pricks one's social conscience without being preachy.
There was a feeling of electric uncertainty, of endings unwritten. One night a group attacked a Santander bank, a Mercedes-Benz dealership. They destroyed several cars and savaged an A.T.M. Police tore into crowds with rubber bullets, bombed them with tear gas. I told myself this was the country where I lived, the city...
'It annoys me, people who bitch about the end of things—the end of bookstores, the end of travel agencies, the end of newspapers, the end of, I don’t know, some language no one speaks anymore. As if we’re the first people who watched things end.
'Doesn’t every century have the last of something? The last Neanderthal, the last bohemian, the last pygmy rhino. It’s just time. There was a last Neanderthal for a reason. Time demolishes stuff. Time happens,' my husband said, demolishing some wine himself.