Isabel Allende’s writing is so fluid, so poetic, so beautiful, that you’d forgive her almost anything. Maya’s Notebook, which tells the story of a teenage runaway who falls into a life of crime and addiction, almost gets away with its flaws. Almost.
The story follows 19-year-old Maya Vidal, who escapes a harrowing adventure across California, Oregon and Nevada by taking up residence in Chiloé, Chile, where she lives with an older gentleman, two cats, and a stray dog who follows her to her new home. In her island refuge, Maya learns about the healing power of community and love. She slowly begins to recover from her ordeal and sets out to share her insights with her new adopted family in the village she now calls home. But Maya learns that she has more to discover than she realized and that what she learns may change not only her life in Chiloé, but her fate.
Maya’s Notebook is a beautifully written book, but it relies on the strength of its characters, not its plot. It’s fair to say that its plot is weak; the resolution seems forced and far too neat given the premise of the book. But Allende’s strength is her ability to create such vivid worlds and characters that you feel like you’re on the island of Chiloé with Maya, Manuel Arias and all the other characters. I enjoyed the escape more than the reasons for being there.