Monday, November 18, 2013

Maya's Notebook

Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende
(Borrowed from my local library)

I expected this to be a deep and moving piece of literary fiction. Yet, somehown, I was unprepared for all that was in store for me. I moved this to the top of my TBR list on the recommendation of an old friend.  I'm so glad that I did.  The only other Allende I'd read up until this point was The House of Spirits.  I enjoyed it, but it was nothing compared to Maya's Notebook.

Maya Vidal was raised by her grandmother, Mimi.  Mimi had fled from Chile during the revolution and wound up in Canada with her young son.  There, while working as a taxi driver, she met the man who would be Maya's Popo (grandfather). They fell in love, married and moved to his home in San Francisco.  
Maya's father grew up and became an airline pilot.  He fell in love with a woman who was not ready to be married and a parent. Just after Maya was born, Mimi and Popo took her in and raised her.  Maya and her Popo were extremely close. When he died in her mid-teens she went off the rails.  She went from dream child to wild child.  After turning to a life of sex, drugs and petty theft, she is sent to a reform school in the woods of Oregon.  Just before graduation, when she knows she's been given the chance to stay and become a counselor in the program, she runs away and finds herself scared and broken in Las Vegas.

Maya barely escapes Vegas with her life and her freedom.  Her grandmother knows that she needs to get her granddaughter to safety. There are so many factions looking for her and who knows if any of them can be trusted.  Mimi sends Maya, with explicit instructions to avoid letting anyone know where she is, to Chiloe.  (I read this book right after Marisha Pessl's Night Film which also ended in Chiloe, which was kind of interesting) There, Maya will live with a friend of her grandmother's.  Maya's life in Chiloe and the way she comes to terms with who she is, where she's from and who she's going to be.  

Maya's story is beautiful and harrowing.  Her idyllic life with the grandparents who adored her. In their care she blossomed, until the death of her grandfather when she imploded. Her rebellion didn't just ruin her reputation, it put her so far in the path of danger that she barely made it out alive. Even as she finishes her stint in rehab, she is hardly safe.  Her grandmother plans her escape at the end of rehab and ships her off to an old friend.  Maya goes from Las Vegas to a tiny little island where everyone is dependent upon everyone else for all of their survival.  Her journey is epic.  It's not always easy to read, much of her life is too horrible to imagine. Yet, she manages to continually redeem herself and try to put the pieces of her life back together.

You can follow this link to the Democracy Now! website to see a video of Allende discussing the themes of this book.

1 comment:

Judy Krueger said...

Wow, thanks for this review. I love Allende. I have read almost all of her novels over the years. And I've had Maya's Notebook in ARC form for months but not gotten to it. Thanks to you it has gone to near the top of the queue.