In the Belly of the Horse
a novel by Eliana Tobias

260 Pages
October 23, 2017
New Fiction All Titles Novel



In the Belly of the Horse a novel by Eliana Tobias

In the Belly of the Horse is a gripping story illuminating an historic period in the life of a Peruvian family separated and kept apart by seemingly insurmountable forces during a time of civil conflict. Outraged and fearful that war is surging too close to home, Manuel Perez takes his seven-year-old son Salvador into hiding. Otilia, his wife and mother of the child, stays behind to protect the family property. As the elusive enemy roams the countryside, she waits, distraught, for Manuel to return. This is Peru in the 1990s, a struggling nation with a large disparity in standards of living, where the majority live in squalor and face daily injustices. When Manuel does not return, Otilia rushes out of the house to search for him and their son. While the violent Shining Path guerilla movement incites revolution and brutal government forces respond, Otilia makes her way to a remote mining camp in the Andes Mountains. Rather than reporting the disappearance of her husband and son to the unscrupulous authorities, she works in the camp's kitchen, keeping a low profile and waiting for danger to pass. Aware that she is facing a grim reality, scared by the unrestrained violence around her, and heartbroken that her appeal to find her loved ones are going unanswered, Otilia agonizes over what to do next. This novel provides some understanding of the situation in which countless people find themselves due to armed conflict within and between the political powers around them, and explores many aspects of the psychology of the victims, the difficulty of finding out the truth, and the actions of various groups working with people from many countries who are enduring the pain of loss and displacement.

“Eliana Tobias’s gripping and poignant historical novel immerses us in the turmoil of Peru’s brutal political conflict and the powerful forces that drive immigration. Through her lived experience in Peru and her uncluttered, elegant prose, she breathes life into her fully realized characters and the chaotic worlds they inhabit. Their courageous, heart-wrenching journey intimately reveals the profound challenges faced by countless people worldwide who are forced into the unknown as they flee their homes and countries due to armed conflict. In the Belly of the Horse reminds us of our most luminous selves, amidst the darkness, and that in the end ‘memories make us.”

—Sylvia Taylor, author of Beckoned by the Sea and The Fisher Queen

Eliana Tobias was born in Santiago, Chile, to immigrant parents who escaped the Holocaust. She graduated from the University of Chile then completed other degrees in early childhood and special education in the United States and Canada. After working in this field in various capacities, including teaching at the National University of Trujillo in Peru, she moved to Vancouver, where she has lived for thirty years and where she discovered her love of writing. Her rich experience of political turmoil, of listening to stories of the Holocaust when Jewish communities in Europe were shattered, of losing family in Chile under military dictatorship, and living in Peru during a time of intense civil conflict, fueled her passion to write about the ways in which people caught in devastation rebuild their lives. Eliana Tobias lives in Vancouver, B.C.

     At the height of the summer the days were long, but now everything
around her turned dark. When she heard strange noises coming from
outside, she didn’t dare turn on the lights. Rhythmic screeching sounds,
a thumping foot on the ground, the bark of a dog—did something
explode? A blast? Could it be true? Were the guerillas on their way to
her village tonight? Were they deliberately harassing people, trying to
scare them? They’ll get me, she thought, but then she recalled her recent
chat with Laura who, after traveling to visit her mother, had said she
had no concerns for her personal safety while on the road.
     She listened with care once again. Were these not the thud of boots
she heard? She tentatively pushed the end of the curtain aside, and
took a peek outside. Everything was dark. There were no lights, not
even the row of houses above showed any sign of life. Had the guerillas
sabotaged the electric power plant?
     Otilia got a woolen shawl from her dresser drawer to wrap around
her shoulders to control her furious shivering. She slid into a squat on
the floor and huddled in a corner, pressing her back to the wall. She
held her breath; from outside, she heard sharp cries and what sounded
like guns being fired nearby. She was so tired she couldn’t think straight
and remained tightly swathed with her knees against her chest.
     Rising abruptly, she made her way down the ladder to a small crawl
space behind the kitchen. The coal storage bin was the perfect spot to
take cover while waiting for danger to pass. She felt for the flashlight
they kept on a ledge, then sat on the stool facing the black cast-iron
furnace.… Only once did she go back upstairs in the middle of the
night to use the bathroom. When she descended again she decided to
try a different tactic to clear her mind from the unnerving worries. She
started to count her inhales and exhales as she took in deep breaths,
but the smell of coal-ash made her cough and she began to fret again.
With her head throbbing, and hardly able to breathe, she lay on the
damp ground, counting the hours for dawn to arrive. She wished she’d
insisted that all three of them remain together at all times. Sleep didn’t
come and neither did her husband and child. Where were they now?

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