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Paula (P.S.)


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About the Author

Isabel Allende is the author of twelve works of fiction, including the New York Times bestsellers Maya's Notebook, Island Beneath the Sea, Ines of My Soul, Daughter of Fortune, and a novel that has become a world-renowned classic, The House of the Spirits. Born in Peru and raised in Chile, she lives in California.


Allende is a mesmerizing novelist (The House of the Spirits; The Stories of Eva Luna) who here takes on a double challenge. Writing nonfiction for the first time, she interweaves the story of her own life with the slow dying of her 28-year-old daughter, Paula. A magician with words, Allende makes this grim scenario into a wondrous encounter with the innermost sorrows and joys of another human being. In 1991, while living in Madrid with her husband, Paula was felled by porphyria, a rare blood disease, and, despite endless care by her mother and husband, lapsed into an irreversible coma. Her mother, as she watched by Paula's bedside, began to write this book, driven by a desperation to communicate with her unconscious daughter. She writes of her own Chilean childhood, the violent death of her uncle, Salvador Allende, and the family's flight to Venezuela from the oppressive Pinochet regime. Allende explores her relationship with her own mother, documented in the hundreds of letters they exchanged since she left home. Allende later married-and divorced-an undemanding and loyal man and became a fierce feminist, rebelling against the constraints of traditional Latin American society. Eventually, hope waning, Allende and her son-in-law take the comatose Paula to California, where the author lives with her second husband. The climactic scenes of Paula's death in the rambling old house by the Pacific Ocean seem to take place in another time and space. Only a writer of Allende's passion and skill could share her tragedy with her readers and leave them exhilarated and grateful. QPB selection. (May)

In December 1991, the 28-year-old daughter of noted novelist Allende fell desperately ill and then slid into a coma, struck down by the inherited disease porphyria. As she nursed Paula daily in a hospital in Madrid, Allende kept a journal in which she told her daughter her life story: "I have the whole future ahead of me. I want to give it to you, Paula, because you have lost yours." The result is a deeply affecting tale, written in the rich, luminous prose typical of Allende's novels, that investigates the sources of her writing as it paints a vivid portrait of Chile moving from postcolonial propriety to Socialist experiment to Pinochet's oppression. In Part 2, written after Paula was brought back to California, the tone changes as Allende realizes that her daughter will never revive. In the remainder of the book Allende speaks not to Paula but about Paula, relating the effort it took to let her die peacefully. Pointing out that until the 20th century‘and even now in all but the most industrially advanced countries‘losing a child was a common experience, she gives some insight into what it takes to bear that loss. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/95.]‘Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"

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