Book Review: Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende

maya

Rating: 4.5 / 5

19-year old Maya Vidal has been sent to Chiloe by her grandmother as a last-ditch attempt to keep her safe.  Maya has been unable to cope with her grandfather’s death, lashing out by getting involved with drugs and prostitution.  After ending up in Vegas in the middle of an FBI case involving counterfeit money and corrupt cops, Maya’s grandmother sends Maya to a remote village in Chile, to disappear for a while.

In a remote Chilean island with no television, cell phones, limited internet access, and an unreliable source of electricity, Maya turns to writing in her notebook, documenting her past as well as her new lifestyle.  Without all the negative influences, Maya can focus on healing herself and examining her past choices and what has brought her to her present predicament.  I loved going on this personal odyssey with Maya; it was touching to see how she changed, matured, and learned from her mistakes.  Even though her Popo’s death triggered her downward spiral, it really was her poor choices that led to her troubles.  Despite that, it was hard not to root for Maya, to hope that she gets the help she so desperately needs, and can repair the relationship with Nidia and others she lost along the way.

Mixed in with Maya’s rehabilitation in Chiloe is the story of Nidia, her past, and ties to the area. Through Nidia’s tragic past,  Allende weaves the story of military dictatorship and human rights violations under Pinochet’s rule together with Maya’s journey.  Maya’s Notebook has a little bit of everything-culture, suspense, and history.

Isabel Allende was recommended to me by a good friend, and I’m so glad I finally got the opportunity to read one of her books. Maya’s Notebook is passionate, gritty, and memorable.  While not always agreeing with Maya’s decisions, I loved her personality and perspective. I am impressed with Allende’s ability to write compellingly and believably from a 19-year-old’s point of view.  Reading Maya’s Notebook was an eye-opening experience.  It is shameful, but I am not well versed in history’s instances of oppression, dictatorship, and human rights violations (although I have read various accounts of such tragic events such as Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick and A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah) so I’m glad I picked up this book  and I can’t wait to get my hands on Allende’s other novels.

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