I don’t often review books on this blog, although I do review books by writers I know on Amazon and Goodreads. I’m not really a very good reviewer. I review books by people I know because, well, if writers don’t support each other, who will? I have a policy of only reviewing books I like; if I didn’t like a book, even if or especially by someone I know, I just ignore it. I also try to no longer make a distinction between traditionally published books and self-pubished books, although I do insist that it be a book and not digital only. That brings me to this review of Cherie Magnus’s fine memoir.
This is not a book about tango, although its author is totally smitten with dance in general and tango in particular. Tango is only barely a metaphor in this book, although as the title suggests, there is the flavor of a kind of religious redemption that the author finds in the church of worshipping dance. So if you are looking for another “tango hag” story, or a how to dance the tango guide, this is not it. This is the story of Cherie Magnus’s life, the real thing, and she has a life worth reading about.
Ms. Magnus was born and raised and lived much of her life in Los Angeles, where she was a professional librarian and avid dancer, as well as working as a dance critic. The story of her life as described in The Church of Tango begins with the early death of her deeply loved husband, and continues with her struggle to desire life again after wishing she could be in the grave with her husband.
The path to survival takes Ms. Magnus first to France, where she and her husband owned a vacation apartment in the village of Evian-les-Bains, and where her husband Jack was buried. Almost as passionate about France as she is about dance, Ms. Magnus signs up for refresher French lessons in Paris, where a flamboyant teacher begins to open a door she had thought probably locked forever … the one to love. It does not turn out well.
For a long time, all of Ms. Magnus’s hopes do not turn out well. She is cheated by lovers and friends, her heart is broken and her bank account savaged. Yet she continues her struggle to find a way to live the rest of her life with both love and happiness.
Only to become desperately ill herself.
One would think it is all going to become simply too much. What saves the story from over-dosing on its own traumas is Ms. Magnus’s attitude, which remains hopeful, and her unwillingness to give up.
She goes to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico to recover from the cancer that drained much of her spirit and more of her finances, partly because it was just cheaper to live in Mexico than Los Angeles, but also the town offered the creative stimulation she always needs around her.
From this point, tango begins to connect the pieces for her, and this will eventually lead her to Buenos Aires, where she currently lives, and where she finally finds a love that is not going to use and abuse her. (One hopes.)
There is a quote from the writer John Nichols on the book jacket that in the way of good blurbs sums up the power of the book. “Cherie is a delightful bundle of libidinous excess couched in intellectual glory.”
And so her memoir … a book of libidinous excess (and nicely libidinous at that) all within the world of Ms. Magnus’s spirit of intellectual glory.
Especially if you are a person who has lost the love of your life far too early, and have found yourself both bereft and hopeless, when friends fade away (and cheat you on their way out), and every hoped for new love ends up in cruelty and betrayal, then you will find inspiration and hope in this story.
And if you are among the truly fortunate to have not (yet) lost the love of your life, you are probably going to at some point, and this book will help prepare you for life after.
Because that’s what Cherie Magnus finally found … life after.