By: Isabel Allende
Here is a story that celebrates stories. Eva Luna is first dedicated to Allende’s mother, “who gave [her] a love of stories,” and is then given an epigraph from One Thousand and One Nights.
And it really is a story about stories. The main character, the eponymous Eva Luna, copes with the world through her storytelling. It’s her talent, her happy place, her gift, and eventually her job.
This book doesn’t play around.
I’ve read a novel by Allende before, and if I’ve learned one thing about her it’s that she’s not afraid to be crude. Her books are extraordinarily romantic, overtly sexual, oftentimes disturbing.
Her characters are never perfect, never content, never simple.
They have blatant flaws, inside and out. They mess up. They are complexly intertwined.
But they are beautiful. They are real.
And through their discoveries, you discover something about humanity, about the world we live in, about how to feel.
Allende is so flowery that I’m surprised that I like her. She can say things like, “Once we were close, I was able unobtrusively to drink in the smell of the man, recognizing, at long last, the scent of the other half of my being,” without me cringing. She can make me believe it without making me feel like I’m reading a Harlequin romance.
She’s brilliant with her words, and she celebrates words and language and stories in this book in a way that I can’t resist.
But this book isn’t all about romance. There’s a civil war in there. Immigration and race issues. Physical deformities. Abuse. Orphans. Transsexuality. The list goes on.
Allende is definitely not scared to portray characters at their worst, characters who have seen it all and still have more to see, characters who fight despite the fact that nothing ever goes right for them.
And for that I respect her.
She tells a compelling, inspiring, emotional story.
It’s a hard read. But it’s beautiful. It’s not for the faint of heart, or the prudish, or the rose-colored-glasses types.
But it’s for storytellers and believers and fighters and lovers and optimists and pessimists and journeyers all at the same time.
So go on. See what Eva can teach you.
If you liked Eva Luna, check out these books:
A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
The Complete Adventures of Charlie and Mr. Willy Wonka by Roald Dahl
The Known World by Edward P. Jones
Plainsong by Kent Haruf
Where the Lilies Bloom by Bill and Vera Cleaver