Review: Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (April 23, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 9780062105622
  • Source: Publisher

Nineteen-year-old Maya Nidal has grown up in Berkley, living with her grandparents after being deserted by her mother and all but forgotten by her father. Her grandmother, Nidia, is a force to be reckoned with. A strongly independent woman, she rebuilt her life after immigrating to the United States from Chile in the early 1970s.  Her grandfather, Popo, is an African American astronomer and professor who brought a sense of calmness and peace to Maya’s tumultuous adolescent life.

When Popo dies of cancer, Maya’s life is upended. Nidia, a normally strong woman, is devastated, forgetting that Maya exists. To deal with the emotional turmoil after her grandfather’s loss, Maya loses control and goes off the deep end.  Her addictions to drugs, alcohol and petty crime lead her to Las Vegas where she becomes involved in a deadly underworld that involves run-ins with the police, FBI, and Interpol. Desperate to get her granddaughter on a better track of life and to avoid capture by the authorities, Nidia sends Maya to her homeland, a small remote island off the coast of Chile. Life has a slower pace here and Maya has the opportunity to reflect upon her own life, as well as the secret past of her grandmother, in an incredibly soul-enriching bout of self discovery.

On the island, Maya stays with Manuel Arias, an anthropologist in his seventies not used to sharing his space with anyone, much less a teen girl. Their relationship is rocky at first but eventually evolves into one of mutual respect and appreciation. It is this relationship that allows Maya to take the first steps on her path of growth and rediscovery, aided by a truly tight-knit Chilean community rich with a need to nurture those around them.

Told in Maya’s journal entries from alternating time periods, Maya’s Notebook captures Maya’s incredibly tumultuous youth and eventual regrowth. Maya’s retellings are incredibly dark and gritty, not shying away from the horrific and disturbing situations Maya seemed to find herself in. What I found particularly remarkable about this novel was how Allende portrayed Maya’s life in truly polar opposite settings, from the dark and crime-ridden Las Vegas to the beautiful small island of Chilcote where everyone works hard to create a respectful life.

Allende delves deep into the Chilean culture, one I am not especially familiar with. This portrayal left be fascinated, wanting to learn more. Readers get a glimpse of the nation’s devastating past which served as an influence to the current contemporary hardworking citizens.

While the style of Maya’s Notebook is far different than Allende’s other books, I do believe this title will garner the attention of a whole host of new fans. Destined to be talked about in book clubs around the country, this title is one to leave a resounding feeling of healing and recovery in the hearts of every reader. Recommended.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this title. Please be certain to check out the other stops along the way!

5 Responses to Review: Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende

  1. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    I really love Allende, although in the past her books had a habit of portraying the strong female protagonist as the smartest, sexiest, best business-woman, etc. which drove me a little crazy. It doesn’t sound like this one goes there at all. She is an incredible writer.

  2. I am about to look at the video. I liked the review about the novel so much my toes are wiggling. I’ve never read Allende. This journal seems like just the book to start off on an Allende journey. So excited…..I’m putting it on Pinterest.

  3. Patti Smith
    Twitter: PattiRSmith

    “this title is one to leave a resounding feeling of healing and recovery in the hearts of every reader. ”
    Very definitely!! This was my first Allende; what do you suggest I read next?

  4. Thanks for being on the tour.

  5. All Isabel Allendes previous books are inspired more or less by someone in her family circle or genealogical tree. Who is Maya based on?