Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende. Publisher: Harper (2013). Fiction. Hardcover. 400 pages. ISBN 9780062105622.
Isabel Allende novels engulf you with impressive stories rooted in Chilean customs. With its present day setting, her latest novel could be considered a departure. The novel commences with 19-year-old Maya sent into exile by her grandmother to Chiloe, an island off Chile’s southern coast . Her grandmother and step-grandfather raised her in the liberal enclave of Berkeley, California. Her Scandinavian mom took off early in her life and her Chilean father, a pilot, wasn’t around much. Maya falls into a terrible drug-fueled scene when her grandfather, an African-American astronomer, dies. Allende writes about drug use and abject despair as magnificently as she writes about Chilean landscapes.
“Exasperated, insane, I waited eternal seconds until the rocks burned to the color of wax, with the tube burning my fingers and my lips, and finally they broke and I deeply breathed in the redeeming cloud, the sweet fragrance of mentholated gasoline, and then the unease and premonitions disappeared and I rose to glory, light, graceful, a bird in the wind. For a brief time I felt euphoric, invincible, but soon I came down with a band in the semidarkness of that room.”
After escaping from the rehab facility, she finds herself deeply involved in a dangerous drug scene in Las Vegas. Once her grandmother rescues her and sends her away, Maya has ample time to discover her innermost strength while in the isolated community. Given a notebook by her grandmother on her departure, Maya contemplates the harrowing past few months and her journey to bring her shattered soul back together. Maya’s Notebook is yet another beguiling, contemplative novel from one of my favorite authors.
–review by Amy Steele
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Harper Collins.