Final Thoughts on Isabel Allende’s Maya’s Notebook (by Jill)

Maya's notebook CoverI finished Maya’s Notebook Thursday night, and I was immediately annoyed with myself for writing so much in my progress report on Tuesday, because I don’t have much additional to say now. The two big surprises at the end of the novel didn’t necessarily come as a surprise as me, especially Maya’s family revelation. If Allende is going to write mysteries/thrillers she needs to hone her craft a bit (I’m saying this because her most recent book, Ripper, is a true mystery/thriller, not a sort-of one like Maya’s Notebook, and I’m now worried that I’m going to figure that one out really early on when I get to it). This plotting issue didn’t really detract from my enjoyment of the novel; it was more annoying than anything else. Let’s just say that Maya was so distracted with everything else that was going on in her life that she didn’t think about why the people of Chiloé were so kind and welcoming to her. A family connection in the town, perhaps? As far as the resolution to the Vegas drug plot, I was underwhelmed by how that played out. I didn’t expect a tidy resolution necessarily, and I was surprised Allende elected to write one. I don’t want to spoil these two plot points for anyone who might be reading this book in the future, so I’m not going to say more than what I already have. I will say that Maya suffers a sobriety setback that makes her realize that she doesn’t have it quite as together as she thought she did, and she becomes much less blasé about her recovery after that. I was glad for this setback because it humanized her.  The ease with which she seemed to recover from her myriad addictions was unbelievable, and unsustainable in the long-term.

Ultimately, I did enjoy this book. It is far from Allende’s finest novel, but the story is gripping, and Maya is, in her way, a sympathetic, though somewhat irritating, character. Irritating because she’s young and spoiled and foolish, sympathetic because she’s a good person deep down who gets involved with some very nefarious characters. Maya’s Notebook is a quick and entertaining novel, but it walks a line between Allende’s traditional South American magical realism and contemporary thriller, and the author should have gone one way or the other with it. I do recommend this book, but not if you’re looking for classic Allende, or if you’re looking for a complicated mystery novel, or if you have a weak stomach when it comes to reading about drug use.

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