A child bride leaves England for a life of unimaginable cruelty, isolation, and beauty in this memoir that reads like the most magical of novels. Married at the age of 17, Lisa St. Aubin de Terán hardly knows her Venezuelan husband Jaime--and learns Spanish only to find that he seldom speaks in that language, either. Nonetheless, he persuades her to return with him to his hacienda, a sugar-cane and avocado plantation perched high in the Andean foothills. Here, her romantic notions of South American life soon wash away in the constant drizzle; the hacienda lies in near-ruins, and her husband's relatives treat her like a pariah--and a half-witted one at that. Jaime disappears for days, then weeks at a time, leaving her without food or money in a leaky, tin-roofed shack, surrounded by peasants who make the sign against the evil eye at her approach. In the years to come, St. Aubin de Terán finds inner reserves of strength she didn't know she possessed, learning to run the hacienda, earning the respect of la gente, bearing a daughter, and, most importantly, discovering the pleasures and consolations of writing. Meanwhile, her husband descends into unpredictable fits of violence and rage, and as his madness escalates, the increasingly ill and weak St. Aubin de Terán must find a way to smuggle herself and her daughter out of the country before he murders them both. Without resorting to either sentiment or self-pity, St. Aubin de Terán has created a loving portrait of a place and people that seem lifted from another century entirely.