For the first ten or eleven chapters of the novel, the Conservative Party is the only show in town. Esteban Trueba, a member of the landowning class, makes his fortune while mistreating the poor tenants on his family estate. Characters like Pedro Tercero and Esteban García suffer oppression and marginalization at the hands of the wealthy elite.
By the twelfth chapter of the novel, the Socialist movement has gathered enough momentum to challenge the conservatives of the country. The Socialist candidate wins the Presidential election and the social reforms his party enacts promise to benefit the poor underclass. However, the Conservative Party enlists the help of foreign intelligence agencies and their own military in order to destabilize the new government. Once again, we have characters on both sides of the conflict – Alba, Miguel, Jaime, and Pedro Tercero, for example, are elated by the Socialist victory, while Esteban hatches plots against the President with fellow conservatives.
In Chapter 13, the military revolts and ousts the President, killing one of our favorite characters in the process (poor Jaime). Miguel and Pedro Tercero have to go into hiding, and Alba starts to help victims of the military persecution.
Alba is arrested in the middle of the night by the secret police. Things start to look very dark when the soldiers blindfold her, take her to prison, and deliver her into the hands of Esteban García, her grandfather's arch-nemesis. The last sentence of Chapter 13, in which Alba realizes Esteban García has been waiting for her ever since she was a little girl, is so climactic it hurts.
For one agonizing chapter, Alba is under Esteban García's control. He rapes and tortures her, and she nearly dies. We get our first taste of denouement, or resolution, when Alba's Grandmother Clara appears to her and convinces her to live, but we're still left in suspense as to how Alba will ever make it out of prison. Esteban Trueba goes to Tránsito Soto and begs her to pull some strings for him to secure Alba's release.
The moment Tránsito Soto calls Esteban Trueba and tells him, "I did what you asked me to," we know that everything's going to turn out all right. Of course, this doesn't happen until the last sentence of the last chapter of the book. Good thing there's an Epilogue so the author can tie up all the loose ends.
A lot of emotional resolution takes place in the Epilogue. Alba returns home and is reunited with her grandfather, who manages to make peace with his inner demons and die a happy man. Alba forgives her torturers and writes the novel we have just read. Plus the house is restored, and Alba's expecting a child. For all the darkness of this novel's final chapters, this is a remarkably happy and hopeful ending.