The novel opens during Carnival in Salvador, Bahia. Dona Flor’s first husband, Vadinho, has just died while dancing the samba in the streets, dressed as a woman. Dona Flor holds a wake and the popular Vadinho’s numerous friends, including everyone from political heavyweights to prostitutes, come to pay their respects and reminisce about their carousing, sexually promiscuous, and gambling friend. Vadinho’s funeral is even better attended than his wake. Afterward, however, the young, respectable Dona Flor is alone, her life empty. She deeply misses Vadinho, who, though he was unfaithful to her, came and went at all hours, and gambled away their money, was a passionate and spontaneous lover. Flashbacks tell of the couple’s life together.
Dona Flor decides to move on with her life. She meets and marries, following a very proper courtship, Dr. Teodoro Madureira, a local pharmacist. He is everything Vadinho was not: faithful, respectable, formal. He is also not the lover that Vadinho was. This becomes apparent on the couple’s honeymoon. Still, Dona Flor is happy because her life is stable, her place in society a respectable one. Dona Flor’s stable, if rather boring, existence changes radically, however, when, on the night of her first wedding anniversary with Teodoro, she finds a naked Vadinho lying on the couple’s bed, returned from the dead and visible only to Dona Flor. His only interest is in making love to Dona Flor. Dona Flor fights off...
(The entire section is 420 words.)