Raidergirl3 said, "Portugal: Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali."
Alentejo Blue is a stunning work of episodic fiction, vignettes in which Ali introduces us to a new culture. She gives us the claustrophobic little village of Mamarrosa in the rural Alentejo region of Portugal, which is inhabited by a small group of people whose lives are steeped in unshakable sadness and linked by the accident of place. There, cork prices are falling, the region is still healing after the brutal Salazar regime, and the locals don't quite care to cater to tourists. Ali's characters wait and hope for change but cannot bring themselves to exert any efforts on their own behalf. Instead, they pin their hopes on the return of Marco Afonso Rodrigues, who earned a fortune abroad and is coming back to Mamarrosa for his own mysterious purposes. Library Journal says: "Overall, the novel compares favorably with Carson McCullers's The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter as a study of collective despair and frustrated hopes."
UPDATE: Wendy said, "I just finished this one today and really loved it. My review can be found here."