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"Flowers in the Dust": Women's Historical Fiction

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Can two people from opposite worlds forge a life together?


It’s 1938 in Asuncion, Paraguay.  Chola is a young and innocent woman, born and raised in ultra-conservative, Catholic South America.  Hans is a recent immigrant, the handsome son of a wealthy Jewish family from Berlin. 


Chola doesn’t speak a word of German and Hans doesn’t speak a word of Spanish.  Yet there is a strong attraction that quickly brings them together in marriage.


Chola’s dreams of happiness are quickly shattered as she finds herself the timid servant to a man she hardly knows and shares neither a common culture or language.  Also, Hans refuses to shed the playboy lifestyle he had in the free-spirited Berlin, even for his new bride. Just as young Chola grapples with this dramatic and disappointing change in her life, she faces a new challenge, as Hans’ family flees Nazi Germany and heads to South America to live with them.


Hans’s profligate habits and infidelities become evident early in the marriage, but Chola’s strict religious upbringing, social pressures and the birth of her two daughters form an invisible cage that traps her in a lonely world. Chola knows she can't go against her beliefs and wants to protect her daughters from the shame of having to live with the stigma of a divorced mother.


Moreover, divorce is illegal in South America and she doesn’t know how she will be able to provide for her children if she chooses to leave her husband. Ultimately, Hans’ addictions force Chola to take measures into her own hands as she continues to raise her daughters not to repeat her own mistakes. Even in the face of the ultimate betrayal, she digs in and finds another reason to keep fighting for a better life.


"Flowers in the Dust transports the reader to another time and place--Paraguay and Argentina in the years after WWII--which seem so very far away, and yet are really close to home. It is a powerful story of love and family, betrayal and disillusionment, with a rich cast of characters and an all-too-human heroine. It is all the more engaging for being a recreation of a true history.


I found myself immersed in the life of Chola, sympathizing with her hardships, celebrating her triumphs, yearning for her happiness--you will, too."

Ingrid Steffensen, author of "Fast Girl"

"Flowers in the Dust is a beautiful and sophisticated story about love and redemption. Ms. Alvarez takes us to a time and place that most of us have only heard about but never understood. Chola's determination and strength remind us of the resilience of the spirit and what it means to be human.

I was touched to know this is a true story and it reminded me that real life is much more fascinating than any fiction."

Melissa Guarino, writer/blogger

My Inspiration
Chola's story is based on my grandmother's life. That was her actual nickname, which she got from an aunt at an early age. I always found her journey fascinating because she came from a time and place so far removed and different than mine, or maybe because it's to women like her that we owe the life and freedom we enjoy today.

Despite her very basic education, her social limitations and her lack of choices, she managed to raise two amazing daughters. She tought them to be strong, independent women but most of all to be true to themselves. These same lessons were past from my mother to me. And so it goes. Every generation prepares the road for the next one to come. 

Sadly, my grandmother died in 2011.

She was 97 years old.

She simply closed her eyes and didn't open them again.

She was holding both her daughters' hands, each one of them by her bedside.


Chola, you will always be in our hearts!  

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