published by Harper Collins
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. (from Goodreads)
Isabel Allende is one of my favorite authors. I don’t think I have read anything from her that I haven’t really liked, or more likely, loved. That being said, I did not love this book. The beginning was a little slow for me, I lOVED the middle, and the end sort of fell flat. I actually feel bad writing this, since I think I didn’t like it as much as I might have, if I hadn’t had such high expectations. Since I love all I have read from her, I expected Allende’s new book to be fabulous, when it was merely good- or ok to me.
The story started slow for me, as I had a problem warming up to Maya. I LOVED the middle so much, especially getting to know all the inhabitants Chiloe. Allende has an amazing talent for weaving the history of her setting, especially Chile, into her story. She makes the people and places come alive, inviting you in with such amazing descriptions. I wish most of the story took place in Chiloe, but it went back and forth, almost haphazardly, between Maya’s time in Chiloe, where she is laying low at 19 years old due to some bad living, and the times and events in the U.S. that led up to her “escape”. I especially like the other main characters in the story- Maya’s Nini, her grandmother that raised her, and Manuel, who opens his home to her in Chiloe. The end, for me, was unexpected. It was not in Allende’s usual style, but seemed like an attempt to wrap things up neatly.
Honestly, I would recommend this book- it was very well written, has very well developed characters, and is an interesting story. It just did not live up to what I had hoped for from one of my favorite authors.
Rating- a begrudging 4 out or 5
“It’s easy to judge others when we are not going through the same thing.”