Maya's Notebook

Isabel Allende. Harper, $28.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-210562-2
Allende (The House of the Spirits) moves away from her usual magical realist historical fiction into a contemporary setting, and the result is a chaotic hodgepodge. The story, told through 19-year-old Maya Vidal’s journals, alternates between Maya’s dismal past and uncertain present, which finds her in hiding on an isolated island off Chile’s coast, where her grandmother, Nidia, has taken her. Maya’s diary relates a journey into self-destruction that begins, after her beloved step-grandfather Popi’s death, with dangerous forays into sex, drugs, and delinquency, but ends up in a darkly cartoonish crime caper, as she becomes involved with gangsters in Las Vegas. Maya describes her present surroundings, meanwhile, with a bland detachment that would be more believable coming from an anthropologist than a teenager. Allende’s trademark passion for Chile is as strong as ever, and her clever writing lends buoyancy to the narrative’s deadweight, but this novel is unlikely to entrance fans old or new. Agent: Carmen Balcells, Carmen Balcells Agency. (May)
Reviewed on: 02/04/2013
Release date: 04/01/2013
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