Maya's Notebook

Maya's Notebook

4.0 100
by Isabel Allende

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Maya’s Notebook is a startling novel of suspense from New York Times bestselling author Isabel Allende.
This contemporary coming-of-age story centers upon Maya Vidal, a remarkable teenager abandoned by her parents. Maya grew up in a rambling old house in Berkeley with her grandmother Nini, whose formidable strength helped her build

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Maya’s Notebook is a startling novel of suspense from New York Times bestselling author Isabel Allende.
This contemporary coming-of-age story centers upon Maya Vidal, a remarkable teenager abandoned by her parents. Maya grew up in a rambling old house in Berkeley with her grandmother Nini, whose formidable strength helped her build a new life after emigrating from Chile in 1973 with a young son, and her grandfather Popo, a gentle African-American astronomer.
When Popo dies, Maya goes off the rails. Along with a circle of girlfriends known as "the vampires," she turns to drugs, alcohol, and petty crime—a downward spiral that eventually leads to Las Vegas and a dangerous underworld, with Maya caught between warring forces: a gang of assassins, the police, the FBI, and Interpol.
Her one chance for survival is Nini, who helps her escape to a remote island off the coast of Chile. In the care of her grandmother’s old friend, Manuel Arias, and surrounded by strange new acquaintances, Maya begins to record her story in her notebook, as she tries to make sense of her past and unravel the mysteries of her family and her own life.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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)
"An explosive novel…Every character is enthralling…This is a boldly plotted, sharply funny, and purposefully bone-shaking novel of sexual violence, political terror, "collective shame," and dark family secrets, all transcended by courage and love."
Kirkus Reviews
A 19-year-old Californian escapes her troubled past when her grandmother sends her to an isolated Chilean community in the latest confection of spiritual uplift, political instruction and lyrical melodrama from Allende (Island Beneath the Sea, 2010, etc.). In 2009, Berkley-born and -bred Maya arrives in Chiloé, an isolated island community in southern Chile, to escape the drug dealers and law enforcement officials on her trail. Her eponymous notebook combines a record of Maya's not-so-gradual immersion into the Chiloé community with her memories of an idyllic childhood and horrifically wayward adolescence. Because her Scandinavian mother deserted her in infancy and her father traveled constantly as a pilot, Maya was largely raised by her paternal grandparents, Nini and Popo. Popo, a gentle African-American astronomer, is actually Chilean-born Nini's second husband; she left Chile with her son after her first husband's arrest/torture/murder by Pinochet forces. While Maya has always loved fiery Nini, Popo was the steadying center of her girlhood. After his death, Maya dove headlong into a life of addiction and criminality, ending up on the streets of LA, where she became a drug runner and worse. But all that ugliness seems far away as she settles into Chiloé, living with and assisting Nini's old friend Manuel, an anthropologist researching the mythology of the Chilotes. Maya, who is visited at times by visions of her Popo, builds a special relationship with Manuel--her curiosity about Manuel's relationship to Nini gives Allende an excuse to explore the dark history of 1970s Chile. Maya also coaches the local kids at soccer and falls in love with a backpacking psychiatrist from Seattle, a gentle romance that contrasts starkly with her memories of rape and violation. Despite her enthusiasm for her new life, Maya remains in danger: She knows secrets criminals might kill for if they can just find her. Allende is a master at plucking heartstrings, and Maya's family drama is hard to resist, but the sentimentality and a lack of subtlety concerning politics, Chilean and American, can grate.
John Barron
What sets Maya’s Notebook apart from the usual teen-in-trouble fare is the soaring redemption Maya finds in Chile. The village’s peaceful pace is a tonic to both Maya and the reader…a captivating read by a great storyteller.”
Maribel Molyneaux
“A brilliant storyteller, Allende creates a giant spiderweb of relationships; pull one thread and the whole structure shudders…fans of Allende and those new to her work will find a great deal of satisfaction in following the often-harrowing but always enlightening adventures of Maya Vidal.”
Miami Herald
“A gritty, violent, cautionary tale set firmly in the present…But the writing is still all Allende: driven by emotion…framed by her brand of lyrical description.”
San Jose Mercury News
“Maya’s Notebook sings a contemporary tune…the narrative expands from harsh twenty-first century language to lyrical descriptions of Maya’s unfolding exterior and interior worlds. It’s a coming-of-age tale achieved by immersion in ageless wisdom…the beauty of Allende’s writing remains undeniable.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Maya’s story is soul-restoring in its fierce conviction that there is no damage done to a society, family or individual that cannot be eclipsed by hope and love. Allende makes you believe that, even if you don’t, at least for a while.”
Seattle Times
“Longtime fans of Isabel Allende’s work will find much of the author’s beguiling mix of clear-eyed toughness and lightness of spirit in her new protagonist, and will welcome another chapter in Allende’s continuing exploration of Latin America. Those introduced to Allende by Maya’s Notebook surely will want more.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Allende can spin a yarn with the grace of a poet.”
Jane Ciabattari
“Gripping…Allende retains the storytelling magic that is her signature, while deftly juxtaposing the alternating universes of the past-including Chile’s dark history of political terror-and present…A tale of a girl’s journey toward self-discovery, of the fierce power of truth, and of the healing force of love.”
Vanity Fair
“Isabel Allende enchants in Maya’s Notebook.”
Booklist (starred review)
“An explosive novel…Every character is enthralling…This is a boldly plotted, sharply funny, and purposefully bone-shaking novel of sexual violence, political terror, “collective shame,” and dark family secrets, all transcended by courage and love.”
Reed Johnson
“Bruising and cinematically vivid…Maya’s Notebook exerts a raw and genuine power…Its strength is Maya’s distinctive voice: vulnerable but spiked with irony, wounded yet defiant, like a teenage emo-punk’s pierced tongue.”
Malena Watrous
“A riveting new novel…From the very start, Maya is in possession of a strong and authentic voice that guides the novel and gives it shape.”

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

Maya's Notebook

By Isabel Allende

HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright © 2013 Isabel Allende
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-06-210562-2

Aweek ago my grandmother gave me a dry-eyed hug at the
San Francisco airport and told me again that if I valued my
life at all, I should not get in touch with anyone I knew until we
could be sure my enemies were no longer looking for me. My Nini
is paranoid, as the residents of the People's Independent Repub-
lic of Berkeley tend to be, persecuted as they are by the govern-
ment and extraterrestrials, but in my case she wasn't exaggerating:
no amount of precaution could ever be enough. She handed me a
hundred-page notebook so I could keep a diary, as I did from the
age of eight until I was fifteen, when my life went off the rails.
“You're going to have time to get bored, Maya. Take advantage of
it to write down the monumental stupidities you've committed, see
if you can come to grips with them,” she said. Several of my dia-
ries are still in existence, sealed with industrial-strength adhesive
tape. My grandfather kept them under lock and key in his desk for
years, and now my Nini has them in a shoebox under her bed. This
will be notebook number nine. My Nini believes they'll be of use
to me when I get psychoanalyzed, because they contain the keys
to untie the knots of my personality; but if she'd read them, she'd
know they contain a huge pile of tales tall enough to outfox Freud
himself. My grandmother distrusts on principle professionals who
charge by the hour, since quick results are not profitable for them.
However, she makes an exception for psychiatrists, because one of
them saved her from depression and from the traps of magic when
she took it into her head to communicate with the dead.

4 Isabel Allende
I put the notebook in my backpack, so I wouldn't upset her, with
no intention of using it, but it's true that time stretches out here and
writing is one way of filling up the hours. This first week of exile
has been a long one for me. I'm on a tiny island so small it's almost
invisible on the map, in the middle of the Dark Ages. It's com-
plicated to write about my life, because I don't know how much
I actually remember and how much is a product of my imagina-
tion; the bare truth can be tedious and so, without even noticing,
I change or exaggerate it, but I intend to correct this defect and lie
as little as possible in the future. And that's why now, when even
the Yanomamis of the Amazonas use computers, I am writing by
hand. It takes me ages and my writing must be in Cyrillic script,
because I can't even decipher it myself, but I imagine it'll gradu-
ally straighten out page by page. Writing is like riding a bicycle:
you don't forget how, even if you go for years without doing it.
I'm trying to go in chronological order, since some sort of order
is required and I thought that would make it easy, but I lose my
thread, I go off on tangents or I remember something important
several pages later and there's no way to fit it in. My memory goes
in circles, spirals, and somersaults.
My name is Maya Vidal. I'm nineteen years old, female, single—
due to a lack of opportunities rather than by choice, I'm currently
without a boyfriend. Born in Berkeley, California, I'm a U.S. citi-
zen, and temporarily taking refuge on an island at the bottom of
the world. They named me Maya because my Nini has a soft spot
for India and my parents hadn't come up with any other name,
even though they'd had nine months to think about it. In Hindi,
maya means “charm, illusion, dream”: nothing at all to do with my
personality. Attila would suit me better, because wherever I step
no pasture will ever grow again. My story begins in Chile with

Maya's Notebook 5
my grandmother, my Nini, a long time before I was born, because
if she hadn't emigrated, she'd never have fallen in love with my
Popo or moved to California, my father would never have met my
mother and I wouldn't be me, but rather a very different Chilean
girl. What do I look like? I'm five-ten, 128 pounds when I play soc-
cer and several more if I don't watch out. I've got muscular legs,
clumsy hands, blue or gray eyes, depending on the time of day,
and blond hair, I think, but I'm not sure since I haven't seen my
natural hair color for quite a few years now. I didn't inherit my
grandmother's exotic appearance, with her olive skin and those
dark circles under her eyes that make her look a little depraved, or
my father's, handsome as a bullfighter and just as vain. I don't look
like my grandfather either—my magnificent Popo—because un-
fortunately he's not related to me biologically, since he's my Nini's
second husband.
I look like my mother, at least as far as size and coloring go. She
wasn't a princess of Lapland, as I used to think before I reached
the age of reason, but a Danish air hostess my father, who's a pilot,
fell in love with in midair. He was too young to get married, but
he got it into his head that this was the woman of his dreams and
stubbornly pursued her until she eventually got tired of turning
him down. Or maybe it was because she was pregnant. The fact
is, they got married and regretted it within a week, but they stayed
together until I was born. Days after my birth, while her husband
was flying somewhere, my mother packed her bags, wrapped me
up in a little blanket, and took a taxi to her in-laws' house. My
Nini was in San Francisco protesting against the Gulf War, but my
Popo was home and took the bundle

Excerpted from Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende. Copyright © 2013 Isabel Allende. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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