Thursday, May 23, 2013

TLC BOOK TOUR and REVIEW: Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende


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.

Hardcover, 387 pages
Published April 23rd 2013 by Harper (first published 2011)
ISBN 0062105620 (ISBN13: 9780062105622)

About the Author

Isabel Allende Llona is a Chilean-American novelist. Allende, who writes in the "magic realism" tradition, is considered one of the first successful women novelists in Latin America. She has written novels based in part on her own experiences, often focusing on the experiences of women, weaving myth and realism together. She has lectured and done extensive book tours and has taught literature at several US colleges. She currently resides in California with her husband. Allende adopted U.S. citizenship in 2003.

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My Thoughts
A week ago my grandmother gave me a dry-eyed hug at the San Francisco airport and told me again that if I valued my life at all, I should not get in touch with anyone I knew until we could be sure  my enemies were no longer looking for me.

The "present day" portion of this story takes place in the archipelago islands of Chiloe, a part of Chile. 
By Alastair Rae from London, United Kingdom (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
A young woman finds herself hidden away on a remote island in Chile, on the run from...I'm not sure she even knew just who she was running from. After months as a runaway, living on the streets of Vegas, immersed in a life of drugs and prostitution, she is now sober and hiding out on this island, surrounded with odd individuals and misfits who become her family, as she reminisces and slowly leads us through the story of her past, revealing herself to us.

Maya is a feisty girl and a bit of a rebel, but good at heart. She's just damaged by her past. She loved her grandfather more than anyone, and when she lost him, she lost her bearings and began a downward spiral.

We find Maya living on an island in Chiloe, and her story flips back and forth between past and present, helping to break up the suspense, which builds and builds in her backstory.

The island is a superstitious area...
...if I’m walking at night, I’m supposed to carry a clean knife and salt, because if I cross paths with a black dog with one ear lopped off, that’s a brujo, and in order to get away I have to trace a cross in the air with the knife and scatter salt. (page 47)
...and filled with people who, while generally positive and living with an exuberance for life, tend to expect bad things to happen...
People have a resigned philosophy toward these-- trials sent by God, they call them-- but they get nervous if time goes by without a misfortune. My Nina’s like that, always expecting the sky to fall on her head. (page 111)
And while a bit "backward" at times, Chiloe grows on Maya...
"When I arrived, I described Chiloe as the ass end of the world, Daniel, but now I know it’s the eye of the galaxy,” I told him. (page 215-6)
This was my first introduction to the author Isabel Allende, although she has been on my Wish List for quite awhile now (and my book club is preparing to read her book Island Beneath the Sea), and I found she has a very easy-to-read writing style, but can be appropriately lyrical at moments.
My body is a ripe peach, ready to be savored or to fall from the branch and smash into pulp on the ground among the ants. (page 295)
My final word: This suspenseful story is told in a muted tone. Maya is at times an abrasive and spunky protagonist, coming to terms with her adulthood and the need to let go of the past in order to move forward in life. At times gritty and hard-hitting, other times sentimental and moving, the story is always intriguing and pulls you along to the very end. My only real complaint is that a couple of areas just sort of petered out. There were characters introduced who just disappeared, and I had a hard time understanding the part they played in the story, or I actually really grew to like them and wanted to know what happened to them, only to find they quietly disappeared into the night. And the ending fell just a bit flat for me. But it's okay. I was ultimately satisfied with the story.
My thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be part of this book tour.
Check out the master schedule on their website:

Wednesday, April 24th: Twisting the Lens
Thursday, April 25th: 5 Minutes For Books
Monday, April 29th: A Dream Within a Dream
Tuesday, April 30th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Thursday, May 2nd: A Bookish Affair
Monday, May 6th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Tuesday, May 7th: Drey’s Library
Wednesday, May 8th: A Bookworm’s World
Thursday, May 9th: Speaking of Books
Monday, May 13th: Olduvai Reads
Tuesday, May 14th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, May 15th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Thursday, May 16th: What She Read … - joint review
Monday, May 20th: Book Club Classics!
Tuesday, May 21st: Man of La Book
Wednesday, May 22nd: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, May 23rd: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, May 30th: Peppermint PhD

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

Cover: A
Writing Style:

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes may differ from the actual published release.


Peppermint Ph.D. said...

"At times gritty and hard-hitting, other times sentimental and moving, the story is always intriguing and pulls you along to the very end."

I think the alternating levels helped me get through it...I don't know if I could have withstood the gritty stuff all the way through.
Enjoyed your review!

Amanda said...

I adore Allende but I'm a little nervous to pick this one up since the books of hers I've adored have been historical fiction. I worry that some of her magic wouldn't translate to modern times.

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

Thanks for being on the tour.