"Listen, Paula. I am going to tell you a story so that when you wake up you will not feel so lost." So says Chilean writer Isabel Allende (The House of the Spirits) in the opening lines of the luminous, heart-rending memoir she wrote while her 28-year-old daughter Paula lay in a coma. In its pages, she ushers an assortment of outrageous relatives into the light: her stepfather, an amiable liar and tireless debater; grandmother Meme, blessed with second sight; and delinquent uncles who exultantly torment Allende and her brothers. Irony and marvelous flights of fantasy mix with the icy reality of Paula's deathly illness as Allende sketches childhood scenes in Chile and Lebanon; her uncle Salvatore Allende's reign and ruin as Chilean president; her struggles to shake off or find love; and her metamorphosis into a writer.
Published: April 22, 1996