THE WORLD AGAINST HER SKIN by John Thorndike (El Salvador)


Virginia and Joe Thorndike have been married for twenty-two years, and now she’s in love with a surgeon thirteen years her junior. She leaves her husband and flies to Miami to start living with Rich Villamano, but there he tells her he has changed his mind and they must go their own ways. In an instant their four-year affair is over.

She takes off in his car, heading north with no luggage, no hope or destination. She buys a bottle of gin and drinks it straight. Afraid that she’ll kill herself or someone else on the road, she abandons the car, flies to New York and takes an airport hotel room. She has no home and nowhere to go.

In this biographical novel, much is remembered and much imagined. Flashbacks from Virginia’s youth expose the sexual abuse by her father, an affair with her high school diving coach, and her marriage to a jealous first husband. Virginia’s troubles echo the plight of both Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, in this fearless book about families, love and loss.

John Thorndike

John Thorndike grew up in New England, graduated from Harvard, took an MA from Columbia, then lit out for Latin America. He spent two years in the Peace Corps in El Salvador (1966-68) and two, with his wife and child, on a backcountry farm in Chile. Eventually he settled with his son in Athens, Ohio, where for ten years his day job was farming. Then it was construction.

His first two books were novels, followed by a memoir, Another Way Home, about his wife’s schizophrenia and his life as a single parent. A second memoir, The Last of His Mind, describes his father’s year-long descent into Alzheimer’s, and was a Washington Post Best Book of 2009. His third novel, A Hundred Fires in Cuba, follows the love affair of a young American photographer and Camilo Cienfuegos, one of the heroes of the Cuban Revolution.

The World Against Her Skin
by John Thorndike (El Salvador 1966-68)
Beck & Branch Publisher
308 pages
May 2022
$15.00 (Paperback), $4.99 (Kindle)


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  • I just received my copy of John’s new book and look forward to reading and reviewing it. The author leads with a statement which reveals what he’s trying to accomplish, “There are really two kinds of life. There is, as Viri says, the one people believe you are living, and there is the other. It is this other which causes the trouble, this other we long to see.” James Salter.

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