Author: Isabel Allende
Publisher: Harper 2013
Genre: Literary Fiction
Maya Vidal is nineteen when her grandmother hurriedly puts her on a plane to Chiloe, an isolated island off the coast of southern Chile. Nidea Vidal, her grandmother, gives Maya a notebook so she can record her story and contemplate her life and the mistakes she has made. The stories from her notebook make up this novel.
Maya is hiding out in Chiloe (pronounced chee-lo-a) for some reason which is not completely revealed until the end. As Maya tells her story, we see the sharp contrast between her simple life in Chiloe and the life she has lived the past three years. The story alternates seamlessly between then and now.
Maya’s mother gave her newborn baby (Maya) to be raised by the parents of her baby’s father. Maya’s father, a pilot, was most often absent from her life. Maya, however, was raised well by her grandparents, with an abundance of wisdom and love. Her Nini and Popo were her foundation.
Everything changed for Maya when her grandfather died suddenly. She was sixteen. Maya was so distraught that she began drinking, doing drugs, and other crazy stuff. Her life spiraled down from there. She was sent to a rehab center to get clean, but she ran away. She ended up under the thumb of hoodlums, drug lords, and other scudzy men in Las Vegas.
What saved Maya was truly a miraculous intervention on the part of some good and savvy local women. They hid her from the criminals, helped her body recover from the drugs, and reunited her with her grandmother. From Maya’s experience with the underworld of Las Vegas, she knew things that both criminals and law enforcement would kill to find out. Her grandmother knew the best thing for Maya was to leave the country and hide where no one could find her. Thus her trip to Chiloe.
I really, really liked Maya’s Notebook. It took me into another world. The descriptions of Chiloe were so good that I could easily visualize the cabin where Maya lived, as well as the countryside. The characters were so well drawn – every single one of them.
The characters were so alive that there were times I was talking to them. Actually, there were times I was shouting at Maya: “Don’t be so stupid!” Nidia Vidal, the grandmother was my favorite. I’ve know women like her. She personified women of my generation with her own Chilean/Berkley twist added in. I’d read the book again just to spend time with her. I highly recommend Maya’s Notebook.
This is my first experience of reading anything by Isabel Allende. It won’t be my last. She has a nice list to pick from. Has anyone a recommendation for me?