Book Review: Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende

Maya's Notebook
Author: Isabel Allende
Reading Level: YA (mature)
Genre: Contemporary Coming-Of-Age
Release Date: April 23rd 2013 (Harper English Edition)
Review Source: Harper
Available: Amazon

Summary: (from goodreads) 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.

The heart of this book is a coming of age story for a girl, Maya, writing her notebook at the age of only nineteen. Surprisingly she has so many things to say and so many events that have changed her life. Maya is what I would consider an “old soul” probably due to being raised by her grandparents and partly due to the environment in Berkeley, CA in the mid-70’s that greatly influenced her Grandmother “Nini” when she arrived there during that time, very young with a young son. Maya gets dropped on their doorstep, soon after her birth by her mother, and with her father being a pilot, her grandparents are everything to her. That is, until sixteen when her beloved Grandfather “Popo” dies. She is shattered and thus begins her turmoil.

When her Nini goes into her own grieving depression Maya is alone for the first time in her life. She mixes with the wrong crowd and does things that spiral her down so far its almost shocking the things that this seemingly innocent, even naive, young girl has happen to her. After sneaking out to meet these friends she ends up at the hospital where they contact Nini and she comes to the rescue. Ordered into rehab by a judge, in Oregon, she plots her escape.

Her escape from rehab to Las Vegas is shocking and ultimately sends her into hiding. The events that get her to Vegas and the way she lives while she’s there shows how Maya is both trusting & naive but she is also determined & strong. The way Maya writes in her notebook and explains things is also surprising in details and so easy to picture in your mind. The people of her little village, the events that happen to her and the family – the life – that she has made for herself becomes of the utmost value to her.

Living in Chiloé a small village in Chile with a friend of her Nini’s, Manuel, she writes in her “notebook” about her past, present and her hopes for the future. Compared to California where there is never any quite with iPods, TV, radio, Internet, etc she now finds herself in a place that rarely has even electricity. They eat what they grow or catch in the sea, they barter with others for bread and jam. She cleans & cooks for room & board. The people of the village become so important to her and she comes to find out about her past and how Manuel knows her Nini. This leads to answers about herself and how life throws you curves at the strangest moments.

Personally, I feel that at times it was slow (to say the least) but at other times I couldn’t put it down. Understand that this book is a journal of sorts and you will begin to get how personal her story is. How hard it is for her to even write down the things that has happened to her. You begin to see that the things this young Maya endures and is put through is necessary for her to become the woman she is becoming. The end of the book left me thinking about Maya and her strange family & friends. There is closure but more than that there is hope for Maya to have long and happy life. This story proves the old saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” in a way that tugs at your heart. This is not the kind of book that I would normally enjoy or seek out to read but I am very glad that I had the opportunity!

1 comment:

  1. This sounds very compelling. I read something a long, long time ago by Allende and I liked it but also thought it was kind of odd. This one sounds more relatable.


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