The Rhythm of Memory

Written by Alyson Richman
Review by Nanette Donohue

Salome de Ribiero’s fairytale romance with her husband, poet-turned-movie star Octavio Ribiero, comes to a terrifying halt when she is abducted and tortured by General Pinochet’s secret police because of her husband’s support of former Chilean president Salvador Allende. Salome is released from prison, but her physical, mental, and emotional scars destroy her, and she and her family are granted political asylum in Sweden.

Salome finds hope in Samuel Rudin, a therapist whose specialty is assisting victims of war—a charge he takes personally, since his family fled Nazi-occupied Paris for Peru during World War II. Kaija, Samuel’s wife, also had her family torn apart by war—as a two-year-old, her family sent her to Sweden from her native Finland, a move that saved her life but left her devastated and confused. As she opens up to Samuel, Salome finds herself falling in love with him, and growing even more distant from the husband she once loved.

The setting alternates between Chile and Sweden, and jumps back and forth between the 1960s and 1970s and the 1980s and 1990s. Readers get a picture of the full extent of the characters’ adulthoods, and how early traumas and tragedies affect the entirety of their lives. Richman infuses her novel with rich and often painful realism, describing both the gentle romance between the two protagonist couples and the feelings of torment and abandonment felt by the characters as they move through their lives. Originally published in 2004 under the title Swedish Tango, this reissue of Richman’s second novel will appeal to fans of her 2011 novel The Lost Wife.