by Isabel Allende
Pub. Date: April 23, 2013
Book received from: Publisher
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Cover: It’s fitting for a contemporary book. I do wish the title was larger and more noticeable than the author’s name, though. (The Greek version is stunning- see below)
Characters: Real, with much depth
First line: “A week ago my grandmother gave me a dry-eyed hug at the San Francisco airport and told me again that if I valued my life at all, I should not get in touch with anyone I knew until we could be sure my enemies were no longer looking for me.”
For Fans Of: Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides, Maria Full of Grace (movie), White Oleander
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Worth the read? Yes. If you are looking for a layered read to spend your time with.
From the Cover: Neglected by her parents, nineteen-year-old Maya Nidal grows up in a rambling old house in Berkeley with her grandparents. Her grandmother, Nidia, affectionately known as Nini, is a force of nature–a woman whose formidable strength helped her build a new life after emigrating from Chile in 1973. Popo, Maya’s grandfather, is an African American astronomer and professor–a gentle man whose solid, comforting presence helps calm the turbulence of Maya’s adolescence.
When Popo dies of cancer, Maya goes completely off the rails. With her girlfriends Maya turns to drugs, alcohol, and petty crime, eventually bottoming out in Las Vegas. Lost in a dangerous underworld, she is caught in the crosshairs of warring forces–a gang of assassins, the police, the FBI, and Interpol. Her one chance for survival is Nini, who helps her escape to a -remote island off the coast of Chile. Here Maya tries to make sense of the past, unravels mysterious truths about life and her family, and embarks on her greatest adventure: the journey into her own soul.
Isabel Allende’s latest novel, set in the present day (a new departure for the author), tells the story of a 19-year-old American girl who finds refuge on a remote island off the coast of Chile after falling into a life of drugs, crime, and prostitution. There, in the company of a torture survivor, a lame dog, and other unforgettable characters, Maya Vidal writes her story, which includes pursuit by a gang of assassins, the police, the FBI, and Interpol. In the process, she unveils a terrible family secret, comes to understand the meaning of love and loyalty, and initiates the greatest adventure of her life: the journey into her own soul.
The Short & Sweet of It: This is a beautiful, multi-layered novel that explores not only Maya’s story, but the story of the women in her family that have allowed her to end up in the situation she finds herself. Maya tells of the lives of her mother, grandmother, and other family that have had their own struggles as she battles her own demons- both real and figurative. It is a venture into how one choice or one occurrence can send one over the edge, making it difficult to find the way back to solid ground.
While the story has a lot of depth and is certainly not a read to be rushed through, there were times that the writing was a bit dull and slower in pace than I would have liked. I found my thoughts drifting from the pages, rather than being drawn into the lives of those within. For this reason, I could not rate it any higher than 3 stars, although the story itself is nearly 5 star quality. It is not only a story about Maya and her family’s history, but delves into the history of Chile, as well as a myriad of personal and political issues.
There were a few parts that were a bit too sensationalized for my taste, and I felt that the subject matter did not need to rely on such extreme examples for certain circumstances. The situations could have stood on their own with the extra drama. However, the positives outweigh any negatives with this book, as it is an honestly written book of secrets of sorts, as the story is unveiled and Maya’s life unravels as the same time. There is a lot going on here, and Allende makes an easy transition from historical fiction to contemporary. It is a testament to how the past and the lives around us have more effect than we sometimes tend to give credit.
Allende on Maya’s Notebook:
For more info & to purchase:
(See, I told you it was great!)