Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Second Time We Met by Leila Cobo

The blurb:
Adored and nurtured by his adoptive parents in California, Asher Stone has moved effortlessly though a nearly perfect life.  He is on the verge of a professional soccer career - when a car accident throws his future into doubt.  Suddenly, Asher begins to wonder about his past and about the girl who gave him up for adoption in Colombia two decades ago.  Also so begins his search for a woman named Rita Ortiz.

From the teeming streets of Bogota to a tiny orphanage tucked into a hillside, Asher untangles the mystery of Rita's identity, her abrupt disappearance from her home, and the winding journey that followed.  But as Asher comes closer to finding Rita, his own parents are faced with fears and doubts.  And Rita must soon make her own momentous choice: stay hidden in her hard-earned new life or meet the secret son who will bring painful memories - and the promise of a new beginning. . . .


The Second Time We Met  combines the stories of Rita and her son Asher Sebastian Stone.  The book opens with Rita living a protected middle class life in 1989 in a small hillside town in Colombia.  Rita's father is a disciplinarian and has grown distant towards Rita ever since she started to blossom into a beauty. He's afraid of the attention that she is starting to attract. He responds to the changes in his daughter by drawing away, becoming cold, and ignoring her.  Their small town is occupied by guerrillas, young rebels with guns.  Rita attracts the attention of their leader.  Months later, when Rita discovers she is pregnant, she is sent away from her family.

Rita leaves with little more than the clothes she's wearing.  There is little support system but she manages to give up her child, hoping that he'll have a better chances with another family.  Then Rita finds work as a maid, works hard, and somehow finds a way to turn her life around. We learn the cost of leaving her family and losing her son later in the book.

Rita's son, Asher Stone, grows up in an upper middle class Jewish family in Southern California.  We get to know his parents well. His mother is a successful television producer and his father is a tax lawyer.  Asher's athleticism and love of sports is novel for them and makes him even more of a wonder to them. I didn't know much about adoption and reading about it from the point of view of Asher's father made it real to me:
So many places seen and so many beautiful, useless things, he thought, all at the service of two people who had the luxury to be hedonistic and indulge in pleasure for the sake of pleasure.  Inside this house he'd never needed anything beyond her company; even at her most annoying, she steadied him, compensated for his little quirks, was happy to voice everything, be their mutual front while he kept to the background, the happy concave to her convex.  

A baby? He never felt like a baby was missing from their lives. Although that was quite different from not wanting one.  He went back to the first question: Why do you want to adopt? 

He didn't That was the truth. But he would, for her.

"I want to adopt to support my wife and to make a difference in a child's life," he wrote, in his typically succinct prose....

Joseph Stone stood in the corner of the examination room, making every effort to look nonchalant as Dr. Stein carefully examined the pins drilled into Asher's skull for any sign of infection.

He still hadn't gotten used to this immobilized Asher, probably never would, he figured with a twinge of guilt, because he was so insanely proud of everything his son had accomplished and because he was everything Joseph wasn't: athletic, popular, gregarious.

Joseph had so often wondered if he'd seen all those qualities in the brown little baby that had been thrust into his arms so long ago.  He couldn't have, and yet what were the chances of finding his alter ego, in the best sense of the word?  He knew Linda still yearned to make an intellectual out of Asher, but there was no bigger thrill for Joseph than watching his son play soccer -- soccer!  Who'd have ever heard of a Jewish soccer player? But there was Asher, unstoppable, relentless, focused, and Joseph's heart would fill and overflow with a warm burst of pride, like a tree, suddenly expelling all its leaves, that left him weak with sheer joy.
While The Second Time We Met tells much more than the story of Rita and her son Asher.  We learn about Colombia in the 1980s and 1990s, the culture, the restrictions, and what life was like during these turbulent years.  We get to know Asher and his real family, his adoptive parents, his teammates, and the woman that he loves.   Leila Cobo makes all these different characters real and complex, then puts them in impossible situations and as they navigate these difficult waters, their stories draw us in, break our hearts, and stay with us.  I found The Second Time We Met a wonderful, engrossing read.

ISBN-10: 0446519383 - Paperback $13.99
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Original edition (February 29, 2012), 384 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

About the Author:

Considered one of the leading Latin music journalists in the world, Cobo is also Billboard's executive director of Latin content and host of "Estudio Billboard," the critically acclaimed interview show that airs weekly on the V-Me network.   Also a former concert pianist, Leila Cobo is a
native of Cali, Colombia, the setting of her debut novel, "Tell Me Something True."  Leila decided early on to blend her two loves--music and writing--into one, and has forged a career as a leading music journalist who considers that being a musician is essential in accurately covering other musicians.

She concertized extensively as a classical pianist before dedicating herself full-time to writing and journalism.

She lives in Key Biscayne, Fl. with her husband and children.

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