I cracked open Eleni Gage’s novel, The Ladies of Managua as my husband, son, and I left visiting friends in Illinois on our way to Montana. In between watching the changing scenery and play of light on the landscape, I settled into Gage’s lush worlds of Nicaragua and New Orleans as she wove together the story of three women: a daughter in the midst of major life decisions, her mother, a former Nicaraguan revolutionary, and her grandmother whose own life was altered by cultural mores and tradition.
Well before we made it to our favorite road in North Dakota, The Enchanted Highway where the largest metal sculptures in the world entice motorists off of I-90 into the town of Regent, I wanted to visit Nicaragua myself.
The Ladies of Managua, is a perfect example of what happens when a writer and avid traveler (Gage) meets the love of her life who is from another country–true story. Gage’s husband is from Nicaragua, and on an extended trip there, Gage fell in love with Nicaragua, as well as, the man who shared with her the place that helped form who he is.
Here, Gage traveled throughout Nicaragua and researched its history and culture to get the details right. She succeeded.
As Gage weaves together the stories of Maria (the daughter): Ninexun, (the mother), and Isabella (the grandmother and mother to Ninexun) that spans several years and two countries, she creates an artful blend of culture, history and place.
Places like Lake Cocibolca with its hundreds of islands, many “uninhabited except by cranes or spider monkeys,”and Solentiname, an island known as a muse to artists, are lush backdrops for the unfolding of family secrets and decision making.
And details like drinking jamaica tea, South American guinea pigs that hop past a veranda at sunset, and bibliobotes, floating libraries that bring books to island children, evoke the cadence of everyday Nicaraguan life.
With The Ladies of Managua, Gage weaves together the stories of three women: a daughter, her mother and her grandmother in an artful blend of culture, history and place. The video from Gage’s website is a visual journey through the novel’s pages.
I finished the novel well before we hit Philipsburg, Montana, our final destination, satisfied and so pleased that I brought The Ladies of Managua on the road with me. Diving into its pages where I could brush up on my Nicaraguan history and root for a happy future for three women, plus a head-in-the clouds, but well-intentioned gringo artist who was Maria’s man, was time well spent.
Gage is a prolific writer whose work has been published in Real Simple, Parade, Travel+Leisure, The New York Times and The American Scholar, to name a few. I could be really jealous, but instead, I think I’ll read more of Gage’s work. She’s terrific.
Video and images courtesy of Eleni N. Gage. The Ladies of Managua was published May 2015 by St. Martin’s Press.
* Gage also has a memoir Other Waters and another novel, North of Ithaka.
Post book review courtesy of Jamie Rhein, member of Midwest Travel Writers Association