The Imaginary Life: A Novel, by Mara Torres, (Open Road Integrated Media), 169 pages, pub. August 5, 2014
Fortunata Fortuna, called Nata by her friends, is at a crossroads in her life. Beto, her live-in boyfriend of three years has just left her in that sort of “it’s me, not you” way that leaves one hoping for a rapprochement that will never happen. She’s at a loss about how to move on. She spends time with friends, stays out late, fights the impulse to retreat from the company of others—but none of this is easy.
The other thing she does is imagine. She imagines a reunion with Beto. She imagines conversations with him critiquing her life since him. She also imagines possible new relationships.
What’s interesting about this novel is that the real and the imaginary are related in the same style. Readers get no cues about whether they’re in Nata’s mind or the world beyond it. This is an interesting position to be put in, and I very much enjoyed this aspect of the novel.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing particularly interesting in Nata’s life, either real or imaginary. She works late as an ad copywriter, goes out dancing, spends weekends out of town—but this just reads as a series of events without much in the way of a larger narrative arc to give it form.
So I find myself feeling equivocal about this novel. On the one hand, it left me unsatisfied. One the other hand, it kept me reading to the end. For anyone who enjoys contemporary women’s fiction the strengths will probably outweigh the weaknesses—but if that isn’t one’s favorite genre, reading this novel may disappoint.