Isabel Allende On Her New Novel: ‘Maya’s Notebook’

Bestselling author Isabel Allende’s novel of a Chilean grandmother saving a granddaughter who’s down and out in Las Vegas.

Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende (Lori Barra)

Chilean-American novelist Isabel Allende has been writing big, global bestsellers for years.  Historical novels with a rich thread of magical realism.  “The House of Spirits.”  “Daughter of Fortune.”  “Ines of My Soul.”  “Zorro.”

Her latest novel comes right up to a date.  Drugs crime, porn, Las Vegas – and an immigrant grandmother trying to save her American granddaughter from losing her self, her soul.  Sending her back to the old country to try to save her.  There are echoes of the Tsarnaev brothers here.  But a better ending.

This hour, On Point:  Isabel Allende and her latest, “Maya’s Notebook.”

- Tom Ashbrook

Plus: a closing segment on folk musician Richie Havens.


Isabel Allende, bestselling Chilean author. Her new book is “Maya’s Notebook: A Novel.” (@isabelallende)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Seattle Times “The bleached hair, nose ring and shoulder tattoo on the young woman on the cover of ‘Maya’s Notebook’ are sure signs we’re not in the historical-novel territory of Isabel Allende’s ‘Daughter of Fortune’ or ‘Inés of My Soul.’ But the thoroughly contemporary heroine of Allende’s latest is every bit as fierce, fragile and fascinating as the corset-wearing women the author has conjured up so well.”

The Telegraph “My grandfather was a great storyteller; he would spook us out with his horror stories about seeing the devil and that kind of stuff. When I was living in exile in Venezuela I got a telephone call to say that my grandfather was dying in Chile. I couldn’t go back to see him, so I wrote him a letter. I wanted to tell him that he could go in peace because I remembered everything he told me – all the anecdotes, all the stories, all his life. And to prove it, I started writing the story. I started writing on January 8 1981, and it turned into my first novel, The House of the Spirits, although I didn’t know it at the time.”

The New York TimesWhat is your favorite literary genre? Any guilty pleasures? I like literary fiction. A good novel or short story is like making love between clean ironed sheets: total pleasure. When I was a teenager my guilty reading was, of course, erotic stuff. At 14, living in Lebanon, I discovered the irresistible mixture of eroticism and fantasy reading “One Thousand and One Nights” inside a closet with a flashlight. Nothing can be compared to the excitement of a forbidden book. Today nothing is forbidden to me, so there is no guilt. Too bad! (My grandchildren would have fits of boredom with the erotic scenes that turned me on in Lebanon.)”

Excerpt: ‘Maya’s Notebook’ by Isabel Allende


Abre Tu Ventana — Victor Jara

Gracia a La Vida — Violeta Parra

Freedom — Richie Havens

Here Comes the Sun — Richie Havens

Listen to these songs and more on our Ultimate On Point Playlist.

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