This is a very personal, honest, unashamed, sincere memoir. Essentially it is a story of survival and overcoming; loss of loved ones; despondency; disappointing friends; serious illness; thwarted love, broken dreams etc. It is a very human tale.
The author struggles with her despondent emotions, following the untimely death of her husband, but then unexpectedly finds new energy and hope within herself. This sets her off on a global journey that has an unforeseen destination.
The tale unfolds by moving back and forth in time rather than following a strict chronological order of events. A style the author uses to good effect to build for us an understanding and an image of who she is and what has made her so.
Her travels to a variety of different countries and cultures are never without incident and frequently involve disappointment. Nevertheless, throughout Cherie Magnus displays a determination and resilience which have to be admired. I doubt there are many who would have put up with what she did and still, ultimately, come through smiling and with an undaunted zest for life.
The book unmistakably conveys her passion for dance and her determination to find it wherever she can. This sometimes leads her into districts most would not wish to traverse on a darkened night. However, despite the title, Tango does not occupy a large percentage of the book but in the end does turn out to encompass the fulfilment of so much of the author’s deepest longing.
Not wishing to spoil it for potential readers I will stop here. The synopsis clearly outlines the framework of the tale and for your assistance it has been reproduced at the end of this review.
The book contains many statements in French though these, in the majority of instances, are without interpretation. This may have been okay for classic novels most of which were written at a time when French was the salon as well as the political language of the day. However, in these modern days those who can read it are in an overall minority. Although the story is not unduly impaired it would have been nice to understand what was being said. The same problem, on a much reduced scale, is encountered where Mexican and South American terms are used again without interpretation or explanation.
It is evident, as you read, that the author is a sensual, sensitive person who has always loved life and enjoyed much with her husband. His absence brought her very low and threatened to be her end. However, her passion for life resurfaces and despite all the difficulties and obstacles wins through in the end; not only to her gratification but also to that of the reader.
At the end of the book the reader is left with the sense of ‘more to follow’ and indeed the author has subsequently published her second book: ‘Arabesque’.
This is an interesting read though it has to be admitted non-dancers may become distracted in places. However, as already stated, dance plays but a small part in the narrative.
It is a well written memoir within which the author’s emotions of the moment are conveyed in such a clear manner that the reader cannot help but identify and empathise with them. I allocate four stars (4*).
‘This is not a “tango book,” but a story of survival that cuts across death, cancer, Alzheimer’s, loss of home and homeland and cherished heirlooms and possessions, loss of shared histories, of hope for one’s children, of hope for the future, of love. But it’s also about finding love and unexpected joy. And about listening to the music and dancing.
I started writing this story at the time it began–in February of 1992, when I was so depressed after my husband’s death I wanted to swallow all of his left-over meds and follow him into the beyond. So what began in a way as a journal or diary became the chronicle of my road to survival in four countries. And once I made that decision to live no matter what tragedy came my way, I plugged on, through one tremendous loss after another, by dancing. No, not yet had the tango found me, but whatever dance there was at the time came to my rescue. I had always been a dancer, and now I knew dance could save me from despair.
As my adventures unfolded, the manuscript grew and grew. I had to make cuts in events, characters, reflections and realizations. That was the hardest part of bringing this story to fruition. There is so much left out. Who knows, maybe I’ll write The Daughter of the Church of Tango, or a prequel one day.
Our tango students come from all over the world: China, The Philippines, Australia, Viet Nam, New Zealand, Hawaii, South Africa, India, Nepal, Finland, Russia, Israel, Scandinavia, all over Europe, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Canada and the U.S. And one question they all ask me is, how did I end up teaching tango in Argentina?
This book is my answer.
The Church of Tango is a passionate memoir of tragedy and adventure, lust and music, romance and tango-and above all, survival.’
The book is available both in paperback and as an e-book.