Monday, August 19, 2013

Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende

About the Book

Neglected by her parents, nineteen-year-old Maya Nidal has grown up in a rambling old house in Berkeley with her grandparents. Her grandmother Nidia, affectionately known as Nini, is a force of nature—willful and outspoken, unconventionally wise with a mystical streak, and fiercely protective—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—a tight circle known as the Vampires—she turns to drugs, alcohol, and petty crime, a downward spiral that eventually bottoms 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 about her family, and embarks on her greatest adventure: the journey into her own soul.

This is what I love about EB recommends, books I wouldn’t usually pick up are now being devoured furiously by yours truly.  An intimidating tome as is, Allende has a gift for storytelling; adapting her protagonist to tug at the heart strings of the reader while secretly wrapping them up slowly in web like strands into the plot.
Evocative scenery, strong characters and a series of events that are brutal, hold no punches and somehow identify with someone as prudish as me.  I won’t tell you that Allende can’t write, because that would be a lie.  The world of Maya is so intricately woven in and out of despair; you cannot help but slowly sink deeper into the world hoping for some clichéd glimmer of hope.  An intensely complicated plot over flowing with characters that stampede their way through family, corruption, drugs, sex, the streets of Las Vegas, Chile, love, friendship, health and sickness; I won’t even attempt to recount the story behind the tome, for that I will depend upon the blurb.
After hell breaks loose and Maya is forced into ‘exile’, or hiding is the more appropriate term, a discovery of heart and soul becomes the theme after the concaved-spiral into an illicit underground world of everything sordid.  A journey fraught with more than just drug addiction, Maya finds herself hopelessly in love – a redemption of sorts, stringing together some of the greatest pieces of writing I have ever encountered.  Ok, fine, we have established that I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, wanting to slap and hug Maya at the same time.
Call it spoilt for choice or just that I can take only so much unhappiness in a novel, I wanted nothing more than to rip the last 100 pages of flouncy description and never ending heartache from this book – as if boredom struck and Maya no longer held the grotesque appeal of runaway drug addict.

Maya’s Notebook is a long, luxurious read that I’d slap this in my top 5 books of 2013, without a blink of the eye.


Maya's Notebook was chosen as Exclusive Books recommended books for July.  You can follow my posts here.

About the Author

Born in Peru and raised in Chile, Isabel Allende is the author of many bestselling novels, including, most recently, Ines of My Soul, Zorro, Portrait in Sepia, and Daughter of Fortune. She has also written a collection of stories; three memoirs, The Sum of Our Days, My Invented Country, and Paula; and a trilogy of young adult novels. Her books have been translated into more than 27 languages and have become bestsellers across four continents. In 2004 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Allende lives in California.


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