Publication Date: 4/23/13
Source: Received from publisher for review
Rating: 3 stars
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.
Maya's Notebook is a book that is very rich in characters and setting and story. Though to get the meh stuff out of the way, it does have a very slow progression. I am sometimes one of those "Slam Bam Thank You Ma'am" readers where I need to be hooked pretty quickly and want the story to have a clear arc to the climax and have a happily ever after ending. This is not that. I really enjoyed it, but I honestly had to have a lot of focus to do so.
Maya's story is told through her writing in her journals, but the way she tells the story it doesn't seem like a juvenile journal entry. Maya's story also begins with her being sent to exile to a very Southern island in Chile to live with a friend of her Grandmother's. We don't find out why for an incredibly long time, but in the meantime we do find out the meaning of her life of being raised by her Grandparents Nini and Popo, and her adjustment to life with Manual on this remote island.
I said that the story is very rich in character and setting and story, and that is what helped me really enjoy this book despite its pace and length. Every person that is in this story has a purpose and provides Maya with a lot of life lessons. She spends the latter half of her teenage years as a drug addict on the streets through some incredibly bad decisions, and Allende holds nothing back in the depiction of the horrors of the things that happen to her. Mike O'Kelly, Freddy, Manual, Blanca, Nini, Popo, and Juanito are just a few of the people that I remember most who helped Maya even when she deserved it the least but helped her on her journey to finding herself and dealing with the stuff life threw at her in a mature and grown up way.
The setting and story that goes with Chile is a big part of the story as well, because it is depicted so beautifully. Maya's family is from there originally and fled during the political unrest of the 70's, so figuring out her past as much as her future is a major theme. She guides Manual to face his nightmares, even though their 54 year age difference makes them an unlikely pair, through researching the things that happened while he was held as a prisoner of war.
I do think that Allende is a fantastic writer. She blended all of these different places, time periods, and culture into a truly cohesive story that I am glad to have experienced.
A message from author Isabel Allende to readers
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About the author:
Connect with Isabel at her website.