This book is the latest from Isabel Allende and it did not disappoint at all. In fact, it was so unique to all her others. This book is not about Chile – it’s about multiple lives throughout different parts of the world with different characters whose stories brought them together. In that sense, it reminds me of Largo pétalo del mar. But only in that sense, because this novel is so unique, and it’s what makes Isabel Allende still one of the best contemporary writers – because just when you think you have her figured out, she surprises you. That’s what this book did to me – it surprised me in the best of ways.
The title and the cover may reveal some of the themes in this book: immigration and identity. And while it is that, it is so much more. It’s about hardship, survival, adaptation, assimilation, hope, love, and much more. Allende’s magical writing transcends the pages and while you keep turning the pages, desperate to know what’s next, you’re sad when you finish. It starts in Vienna, on the brink of World War II. We meet a Jewish family trying to flee before being sent to their death at Auschwitz. Samuel Adler, a young boy, is sent on the Kinder journey to England. He starts a new life whilst being young, scared, and being thrust into the unknown. Many decades later, we meet Anita Díaz. Similar to Samuel, she is ripped away from her mother while at the US border. Another family trying to flee their country to escape danger, only to be ripped apart and possibly sent back. Throughout the book, we see how she has to adapt to her new life and how just like Samuel, she survives. It’s hard to watch how she is like many children – torn apart from their families and suddenly left in a new country, in the land of the unknown.
This novel is so strong, it took me by surprise. Normally when writers are producing one book per year and they’re as famous and well-respected by Isabel Allende, it’s human nature to expect that after twenty or so books, the best are behind them. This is not the case for Isabel Allende. I would say that this novel is in the top 6 or 7 of what she’s written. It’s beautiful, moving, and powerful and it opens our eyes to no matter where in the world we live, there is pain everywhere. Allende makes us open our eyes to the fact that although some people can suffer the greatest, they can have a happy ending.