When a nanny from war-torn El Salvador moves in with a wealthy American family, the result is an inspiring story about the power of love to cross cultural boundaries.
Cecilia Samartin’s most impressive work yet, Vigil is told from the perspective of Ana, a middle aged woman who is waiting at the deathbed of her husband as he loses his battle against cancer. While she waits, she thinks back on her life and the incredible journey that brought her from war-torn El Salvador, to a convent in the U.S., and finally to a wealthy California estate where she was employed as the nanny for a dysfunctional family caught up in the throes of decadent life. Despite her traumatic past, she is able to bring a wealth of love and harmony to her affluent yet spiritually bereft employers—gifts that no money could ever buy.
In the course of Samartin’s work as a psychotherapist, she has been awed by those rare individuals who not only survive after having endured unimaginable trauma, but flourish, and are able to promote the same in those around them. Vigil is the story of one such woman and the family that she sets her heart on saving. A heart-wrenching story of love and loss, Vigil is Cecilia Samartin’s most powerful novel to date. As Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander said, “Samartin writes with shimmering grace about homeland, exile, passion, and loyalty.” Readers will be spellbound by Vigil’s magical language and provocative themes.
Samartin's disappointing latest (after Tarnished Beauty) queasily alternates between past and present, as Ana, tending to her dying lover, reflects on the events that have brought her to this point. Samartin is at her best dealing with Ana's harsh childhood in war-torn El Salvador. But the story loses strength after a sympathetic nun arranges for Ana's entry to the U.S. Once in California, Ana attends school and, upon graduation, enters a convent. But before taking her vows, she works as a nanny for the wealthy Trellis family, and the temporary job becomes permanent as Ana becomes increasingly involved in the Trellis family. However, the characters are so thin that it's difficult to care about Ana or the Trellises, and the domestic dramas and descriptions of Ana's household duties that make up the bulk of the book are less than exciting, while the plot twist at the end is predictable and hokey. Samartin's writing, while sometimes fine, is often clotted with clumsy metaphors (a piano reminds Ana "of an eagle on the wing soaring through the sky"). The novel's derivative premise is its most distinguishing feature.