Synopses & Reviews
From a National Book Award finalistfor her memoir American Chica
and the author of the acclaimed novel Cellophane
comes this spare, powerful story of sexual obsession and its consequences.
Carlos Bluhm leads the good life in upper-class Lima: he attends social functions with his elegant wife, goes out drinking with his three best friends, has the occasional, fleeting assignation. . . . Until he meets Maria Fernandez, a dancer at a tango bar in a rough part of town. The beautiful sixteen-year-old intoxicates him. An indigenous dark-skinned Peruvian, she represents everything his safe white world does not, and soon he cant get her out of his mind. They begin a passionate affair, one that will destroy his marriage and shatter the only reality hes ever known.
Flash forward twenty years: against all odds, Carlos and Maria have remained together. But when Maria finally presses for a formal commitment, feelings long suppressed erupt in a tense endgame that sends both of them hurtling toward a dangerous resolution that will forever alter their lives.
Brilliantly realized, erotic, unsentimental, Lima Nights is a unique love story and a stunning work of fiction that will reverberate long after its final page.
About the Author
Marie Arana is the editor of the Washington Post Book World. Born in Lima, Peru, she now lives in Washington, D.C.
Reading Group Guide
1. What are Bluhms first impressions of Maria, both at Lima Nights and at the supermarket? What makes her different from the other women he has known? How did your impressions of Maria, and of Bluhm, change throughout the novel?
2. Discuss the time period and history captured in Lima Nights. What had you known about the Shining Path guerrillas?
3. Do the vast differences between Maria and Bluhm–especially in terms of age, race, and economic status–strengthen their attraction for each other? How do their differences help and hinder their relationship?
4. How do Marias memories of her parents influence her beliefs about love and survival?
5. Discuss Maria and Bluhms sublime beach trip to Paracas. Was he deceiving himself as much as he deceived his wife, or did he find his true self during those passionate days and nights? How does their trip compare to your ideal romantic escape?
6. What do Maria and Sophie mean to Bluhm? When he compares them on a list, what qualities seem more important to him? How important is sex in building a healthy marriage?
7. How does Bluhm relate to his two sons, Fritz and Rudy? What does he try to teach them about being good men? What do they, in turn, teach him?
8. What emotional shifts take place between the first and second parts of Lima Nights? Were you surprised to see Maria and Bluhm still together in “Mano a Mano”?
9. What makes the tango the perfect dance for Bluhm and Marias mutual seduction? What illusions did they create when they first became lovers? How did they stay in step with each other as things became more turbulent?
10. What truths does Lima Nights reveal about relationships and longing? Would you have responded to infidelity the same way Sophie did?
11. Was Bluhms obsession with Maria the cause of his marital problems, or was it a symptom? How did his desire for Maria compare to Willys feelings for Carmela?
12. Is there much difference between the services offered by Oscar and those offered by the vidente? Which one has better insight? How do both healers affect the minds of their clients?
13. How did you interpret the presence of the old man who helps carry Bluhms curse out to sea? Is his presence a coincidence, divine intervention, or something else altogether?
14. What does the closing scene say about Bluhms house and all that it represented to him at the various stages of his life? What do you predict for him, and for Maria?
15. What elements of Lima Nights reflect themes from Marie Aranas previous books, including the issues of class described in her memoir, American Chica, and the relationships captured in the novel Cellophane?
A vibrant literary talent, National Book Award-finalist Marie Arana has won acclaim from critics coast-to-coast. With Lima Nights,
she delivers a provocative portrait of erotic obsession in a tale of unlikely lovers who dangerously gamble on passion. Carlos Bluhm lives a conventional life in upper-class Lima, providing his wife and children with a comfortable haven, seemingly sheltered from the citys political unrest. Then he meets an astonishingly beautiful dancer named Maria Fernandez. Indigenous and dark-skinned, she lives in the poverty-stricken shadows of his world, working at a tango bar and wise beyond her sixteen years. As their affair escalates, everything Bluhm and Maria have believed about themselves begins to change. At the moment of his greatest deception, he achieves ultimate bliss, not realizing it will cost him everything in the end. An unforgettable love story, Lima Nights
unfolds like a tango: seductive and enchanting, and laced with dramatic turns.
The questions and discussion topics that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Marie Aranas Lima Nights. We hope they will enrich your experience of this intoxicating novel.