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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


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.

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.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
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.


Meet 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, Inés 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.

Brief Biography

San Rafael, California
Date of Birth:
August 2, 1942
Place of Birth:
Lima, Peru

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Maya's Notebook: A Novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 100 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book last night and have read it nonstop. The story is told by Maya writing in her journal but to me it read more like a conversation with a friend telling you the story of herself and her family. I had read a review that did like the book but found Maya's drug and alcohol spiral a little far fetched so I was expecting doubt there as to the authenticity of a list girls story. My doubts on that account were unfounded as I found the quick downward spiral very believeable as I have been witness to such despair and redemption. Story is very well told and opened my mind to another view of the world and events I had not explored. Definitely a story of love, redemption and the way events shape a person's life, opens up thinking much deeper though than just Maya's story. The best stories don't just entertain they also bring questions and make us seek information to events we may have not previously understood or even known much about. I hope if you read this book you will also see deeper than just what happens to Maya in her story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Without going much into the story, I will say that I thourally enjoyed reading this book. I loved how Allende tells the story of Maya's journey through a series of flashbacks without loosing the essence of the novel. I was highly impressed with this novel and treasured reading the book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well written; very interesting. I literally couldn't stop reading until finished.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a fan of Ms. Allende and this book did not disappoint.  The plot is very unique and the chracter of Maya comes to life with Ms. Allende's beautiful writing style.  The book will not disappoint you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I usually read Mysteries. However, I saw the review for this book in the O Magazine and decided to read it. Glad I did. Enjoyed it very much. If you haven't read this book, you should add it to your reading list.
lester-- More than 1 year ago
I am half way through and can't seem to turn out the light at bedtime. I am really enjoying this nbook.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Story, characters and settings provide a great book that has just enough twists to make this an enjoyable read!
StephWard More than 1 year ago
4.5 Stars Maya's Notebook is a coming of age contemporary novel that follows Maya Vidal as she escapes into hiding from her home in America to a small island off of Chile to escape her past of crime, prostitution and drugs - as well as running from Interpol, the FBI, police and even a gang of assassins. Throughout the book, we learn of Maya's life: her family history, her mistakes, her past, her thoughts and dreams, and even a family secret so deep that it threatens to shatter Maya's life. This is another breathtaking novel from a bestselling author whose talent is evident from the first paragraph. This story deviates from her other books, as it's set in the current time instead of the past. Maya's character is a solid and very layered main character. We learn a lot about her throughout the story. I came to see her in many ways and was able to watch her character grow and come into her own. I loved reading about Maya's life and her family, all of which made her more realistic in my eyes, which is a great quality for a lead character. The book is written from Maya's point of view, in the form of journal entries. Although I normally don't like this format, I think the epistolary form worked well for the plot and the characters in the story. The pace of the book was well done and the journal entries made for easy reading. The plot flowed effortlessly and easily intertwined Maya's past with her present circumstances and her thoughts. The writing style was flawless and done with such vivid descriptions and lyrical prose that I was immediately captivated and brought into Maya's world within the first few sentences of the book. It was a wonderful mixture of beauty, sadness, and hope that I haven't seen in many books before. This is one novel that will reach your heart and stay with you long after you finish reading it. I highly recommend it to lovers of literary fiction and young adult coming of age novels. Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked this book even though the plot twists were obvious to me long in advance. Interesting fictional story.
LyndaLB More than 1 year ago
I don't know if anyone can go that low and come out of it even with all the support she had. Fascinating characters and their development through their history and survival, without depending on trite physical descriptions. The island off Chili, was interesting. The ending was a flat out surprise. Didn't want to put it down.
LynLO More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book, could picture the island. If you want a different book thats not all mushy love story read this.
Barbara_Anne More than 1 year ago
Maya is raised by her grandparents Ninni and her beloved PooPoo. He pilot father is rarely around and her mother is not involved at all. When her grandfather, PooPoo, dies, Maya loses her anchor and drifts into drugs and eventually a terrible life in the underworld in Las Vegas,heavily into drugs and alcohol and bound to a dealer, selling in the wegas Clubs. Nearly killed over infighting between the criminal factions, she is rescued by the "Widows for Jesus", detoxed and sent to the beautiful Chiloe, an Archapelago off the coast of Chile to live with Nini's long time friend, Manuel. She heals in the beauty of the island and the love of the inhabitants. There are many twists and surprises in this engaging story of love and healing.
Sheeld More than 1 year ago
Allende grabbed my attention immediately with the intimate details surrounding the life of Maya. I was intrigued by the maturity of Maya and yet her childlike needs so cleverly woven into her character, which still made her so believable and normal. While Maya's upbringing was much different from mine, I could easily picture the varying events in her life that produced a beautiful and caring person.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting and well written. Allende never disappoints for the discerning reader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very interesting and well written. I like how the author goes from past to present. Definitely would recommend this book to others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great story that kept me turning pages in anticipation. The characters were believable and the story was well written. I'll read this one again!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excelkent character development, good pace, interesting plot and superb narration
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Living in the Bay Area made reading about that connection in the story very enjoyable. Made it all very realistic. Having lived thru the late 60s myself, I could really connect with Maya and the things she encountered. I'm also amazed that I made it thru and come out alive while several of my friends didn't. Maya is a very believable character, going thru the growing pains often necessary to reach adulthood with some level of enlightenment. Well written .. now I just want to know what happens in Maya's future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this novel by Isabel Allende. Maya is a very likeable character who details her issues with overcoming different types of abuse. It is also a reminder of the importance of family and role models. Lots of interesting geographical and historical information is also included. A different type of book, easy to read with good character development and a few surprises.
Barbaraketubah More than 1 year ago
Isabel Allende's writings are always interesting and take you places you'd never expect to go. Looking forward to her next book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Didn't want it to end! Wish there could be a follow up book of the lives of these characters!
CathiMD More than 1 year ago
I loved this, hard to put down but then I am a huge fan of Isabel Allende.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent story worth following to the end. Story unfolds slowly and comes to a great ebd.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very readable story that takes us to an island off Chile's coast.  Allende's usual fascinating plot, just a hint of her fabulous magical realism.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a wonderful story. I haven't enjoyed a book so much in a very long time. I cried, I laughed, I was almost late to work because I COULD NOT put it down. Looking forward to checking out her other books