|The Blue Line: A Novel|
by Ingrid Betancourt
Penguin Press | 2016 | 368 pp.
In The Blue Line Betancourt merges her own experiences with this history, and creates a character - Julia - who embodies her own personal strength, but who also carries a secret that allows her (and the reader) to foresee the horrible suffering to come as the story unfolds. Julia has inherited her grandmother's gift - visions of the future through the eyes of an unknown source who calls, in one way or another, for help in their future moment. As a child, Julia saves her sister from drowning by teaching her to swim before the disaster she has foreseen can occur. As an adult, she has to confront a vision of her own future - which Mama Fina describes - in order to save another life, only to find herself being broken many more times by the death squadron that ruled Buenos Aires.
The magical aspect of the story takes a backseat to the horrors of the reality that Julia lives, but her character is stronger for it. What might in another novel be a distraction proves, in this one, to be a comfort - a way by which the reader can prepare themselves for each next step of Julia's perpetually angst-and-anxiety-ridden life. The story, if a shade unbelievable, is harrowing in its brutal descriptions of the horrors of a very real history. Julia, Mama Fina and Theo may not be as factual as that history, but Betancourt brings them to life with a deft vibrancy - an effect, I believe, of an empathy that most of us will thankfully never understand.