Sunday, December 11, 2011

REVIEW: First Love: Just Once in a Lifetime: A Memoir by Violeta Barrett


By 1956 Violeta Barrett had been working for a Wall Street investment firm more than a decade. Recently separated from her husband and feeling overworked, Violeta decided to vacation in Mexico. After her plane landed in Mexico City, a stranger with a deep, accented voice introduced himself as her tour guide. Violeta and Jorge had no idea they were about to begin a four-year romance that would endure the test of time and distance.

In her compelling memoir, Violeta shares a nostalgic and emotional journey where principles, love, and obligations collide and force unexpected decisions. Energized by the Mexican culture and Jorge's charm, Violeta is soon caught up in the joy of being loved. But before long she must return to her obligations, leaving Jorge behind. Through the more than seventy love letters she would receive from Jorge for the next few years, the two share a forbidden passion-until the forces of morality prevail.

Nearly fifty years ago, Violeta and Jorge fell in love, changing their lives forever. Their heartfelt story proves that true love is not affected by time. It is ageless. It is eternal.
  • ISBN-13: 9781450279932
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/9/2011
  • Paperback, 224 pages
About the Author
from her website

Violeta Barrett, a Brooklyn transplant, moved from Canada to Ft. Myers, Florida, where she resides today, following her second husband's death. She has been published in the anthology Beyond Coping, and her poetry and writings have been printed in her local newspapers. Her passions are classical music, travel, photography, and, of course, love.

Visit her website
Read an article from our local newspaper
Learn more about the author

My Thoughts
Most women dream about finding love. Many do, but for many others, it remains a dream. I was one of the lucky ones, I thought. But love doesn't always come in a nice, neat package; it can truly be both agony and ecstasy. 

While the author lived in New York during much of the story, her love affair with Jorge took place in Mexico City and the surrounding area.

At around thirty years of age in 1956, Violeta had already been working for more than ten years at a Wall Street investment firm. During that time, she had also married, but separated from her husband after two years in an unconsummated marriage.

So it was at this point in her life that she decided she'd earned a vacation, and headed down to Mexico. As she steps off of the plane, she is greeted by a handsome Mexican tour guide by the name of Jorge. Over the next couple of weeks, Violeta and her tour companions are taxied around Mexico by Jorge, always charming and informative, if at times a little deceitful with his knowledge, making up what he doesn't know.
...Always eager to learn something new, I hung on to every word. Unlike the others, I didn't ask many questions until I became aware that some of his answers were suspiciously familiar. Out of earshot of the two women, I whispered to him, "Didn't you just use that term to refer to something else?"

He looked at me squarely and grinned. For a second I was puzzled but then I got it. I couldn't help grinning back.

"Why you trickster, you!" I stifled a laugh. "How do you know I won't snitch?"

"You won't do that, will you?" he replied. His eyes sparkled. "Tourists ask many detailed questions. They really don't care what the answer is, as long as you answer." (page 14)
I loved a scene relayed in the book of a time they were approaching a town, and as had become common, children surrounded the car, poor and beggarly, clamoring for money. Initially Violeta and her companions would give the children pesos, until Jorge pleaded with them to stop.
"Please don't make beggars of my people," he said.

Astonished, I asked, "What would you have us do, Jorge? Ignore them? They're children!"

Without faltering, he opened the car window and spoke to several of the boys in Spanish. They ran ahead of the car, clearing the way. Others shouted to their friends, who backed off. I soon realized he had put them to work, finding us a parking spot. One enterprising boy diligently polished the side view mirrors with the tail of his shirt, smiling broadly at us.

Jorge patted him lightly on the head. "Bueno," he said, then called out to the other boys, "Muy bien, muchachos." I learned a lesson that day I never forgot. (page 7)
I loved how, instead of giving out charity, he instilled worth in the children by having them work for what they received. It was payment for a job well done rather than charity.

As the days pass, and the group tours Mexico, Jorge and Violeta's feelings for one another grow. By the time that Violeta heads back to New York, both she and Jorge believe themselves to be in love.

The first 40-plus pages tell the story of their affair, while the other 150 or so pages are of Jorge's letter to Vy over the years, after she returns to New York.

This is one of those stories that is very personal, so it is hard to be critical at all. I am also inclined to feel sensitive towards the author and this story, given that she happens to be a local here in town. You tend to be protective of your own!

There isn't really much to be critical of as far as writing style and the like. The only really critical thing I have to say in that respect is that the timeline wasn't laid out very well, so I had a hard time envisioning how everything happened. I had to sort out her age, am still unclear on how long she was in Mexico, although I think it to be around 2 weeks, and feel that other things were left unclear as well. Like how she found out about Jorge's wife and when he had married. None of Jorge's letters ever mention his marriage, unless it was in one of the few letters not included in the book. Or perhaps he told her in one of their few phone calls over the years? I don't know. So I feel that bits of the story are missing, so I don't have a complete picture.

The love story was sweet, but unfortunately I'm a bit jaded and cautious where love is concerned, so I have to be skeptical of a love born from a brief encounter. I like to think it was genuine and sincere and full, but Jorge's letters smack a little of co-dependency to me. I felt suffocated by the clinginess of them much of the time. But given the way that their love has hung with Violeta all of these years, I have to trust that it was as deep and meaningful to them as a decades-long love affair.

My final word:
Sweet and lingering. If romance is your cup of tea, give this real-life one a try.

Purchase your own copy of First Love.

My Rating: 7.5 out of 10


I received a copy of this book to review from the author, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

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