And Natalie’s. Tracing their steps, I catch myself, following the heroines of my latest novel, The Summer of the Spanish Writer, when they, too, wandered the streets of mysterious New York’s Chinatown, lost in their tangled emotions, unraveling secrets, and the exotic aromas and faces around them. If you haven’t read my novel yet, you might not know that a crucial scene takes place in Chinatown (shh, all of you who have, let’s not give anything away!), as the two friends finally allow themselves to dig bravely into their hearts and expose the carefully concealed old, little (but not to little) skeletons. Chinatown in the summer, not a place for the super-sensitive, as the heat unearths aromas that may not be exactly pleasing, might they come from the exuberant fish markets, the piles of colorful thin purple eggplants, scallions and dragon fruits basking in the white sun of New York in July, or the acrid scent of incense filtering through the door hinges of the store-front Buddhist temple. A flash of crimson distracts me as I browse in a shop thick with dangling dresses and Mandarin blouses, silky red, embroidered with gold and fuchsia dragons and flowers. I hold my breath as I stumble on the dress that caught Cassandra’s attention, whose fabric she caressed and coveted for a few seconds, while disclosing – though not looking into her eyes – her shameful truth to Natalie. I walk past the herbalist’s shop, whose glass window displaying jars of gnarled roots and powdery teas in green canisters, still bears the fingerprints of a distraught Cassandra seeking (yet fearing) a sympathetic ear. The unassuming restaurant at the corner proclaiming Vietnamese Cuisine beckons tantalizing, promising crispy fried spring rolls wrapped in fragrant cilantro leaves, to be dipped in an aromatic amber sauce. I give in and enter the dark coolness of the candle-lit room, where only a few patrons sip their tea. Here, then, is the table which the friends shared, while talking openly for the first time, the relief of Cassandra’s confession reflecting in Natalie’s own, since, she too, disclosed a memory she had deeply buried inside her soul. The light is dim, the food warm and appetizing, and I imagine Cassandra nervously twisting her new delicate jade ring, which she wished so much to believe would bring her luck. Come on over to Chinatown, dear readers, follow Natalie and Cassandra, feel their presence in the narrow streets, see their images in the shop windows, peek at them as they sit at a small table, sipping sweet Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk, and daring to reveal their sad secrets. Enter the world of the Spanish Writer, live the passion, the intrigue, the treachery, the fear, but also the soothing comfort of true friendship. (Click the book link on the banner for more info).