“There is no death, daughter. People die only when we forget them,” my mother explained shortly before she left me. “If you can remember me, I will be with you always.” (p. 43)
Eva Luna was born in Chile to a young single woman named Consuela, who died when Eva was only six years old. Eva’s godmother accepted responsibility for Eva’s welfare, immediately placing her into service. She spent several years working in one home where she became close to another servant, Elvira, who was like a mother to her. Elvira taught Eva Luna an important lesson: “You have to fight back. No one tries anything with mad dogs, but tame dogs they kick. Life’s a dogfight.” (p. 69)
Eva Luna took this advice to heart, and grew up a strong and independent woman. She worked in a variety of situations, from a red light district to a remote mountain village. Throughout her life she had been an expert storyteller; as an adult she returned to the city and was able to use this talent to make a living. She reconnected with characters from her past, including a revolutionary named Huberto Naranjo. Huberto had helped her find shelter as a young girl, and through him she became embroiled in the country’s tumultuous political environment.
There was a lot going on in this book, but it didn’t quite work as well as I’d hoped. I love Isabel Allende’s writing — her prose is wonderfully descriptive, and brings her homeland to life. She creates fascinating characters, and situations bordering on magical realism (something I normally hate, but Allende remains safely on the edges). So I enjoyed reading this book, but at the same time I found the story preposterous, particularly as the once-illiterate Eva begins to make a living as a television screenwriter. And some of her romantic entanglements seemed far-fetched.
Allende fans will find this a good read, but those unfamiliar with her work should start with a different book, like The House of the Spirits.