Friday, March 27, 2009

Book Review: Paula

"Listen, Paula. I am going to tell you a story, so that when you wake up you will not feel so lost. The legend of our family begins at the end of the last century…"

I've had this book by Isabel Allende on my shelf for nearly a year. I have no idea what took me so long to read this beautiful book, written by Allende as her daughter lay in a coma. I'm glad I finally did.
"You have been sleeping for a month now. I don't know how to reach you; I call and call but your name is lost in the nooks and crannies of this hospital. My soul is choking in sand. Sadness is a sterile desert."
It was a hard book to get through because the circumstances of the book are so painful. Allende's 28-year-old vibrant, brilliant, newly married daughter falls into a coma as a result of a genetic disorder called porphyria. Allende sits by her bedside for six months and begins writing the story of her Paula's family, Allende says, "to bring you back to life."

Allende's writing is simply beautiful. This is a winding tale of a memoir, but the winding is purposeful and never wandering aimlessly. Allende will tell a lovely story from her childhood or her mother's childhood and then return the reader to Paula's bedside, where she is immersed in grief.
"In the long, silent hours, I am trampled by memories, all happening in one instant, as if my entire life were a single, unfathomable image. The child and girl I was, the woman I am, the old woman I shall be, are all water in the same rushing torrent."
This is a sad, lovely book. I've read Portrait in Sepia and Daughter of Fortune and loved them both; Allende is a master storyteller, and this memoir took her to a new level for me. I am going to add several of her books to my TBR list; I've only just begun!


Marbel said...

I agree; this is a wonderful book. I also loved House of the Spirits and Eva Luna but haven't enjoyed her more recent books as much. Hm, think I will look for something from her at my next library stop!

Book Psmith said...

I couldn't agree with you more. This book seemed so personal to me because I was a new(ish) mother. You could feel the intensity of Allende's love for her daughter and I thought this book honored her daughter in such a beautiful way.