This is the story Alma would rather write. Isabel, the heroine and scarred survivor of this story-within-the-story, lovingly runs the orphanage from which the Spanish boys are chosen to be the living carriers of the vaccine. She accompanies them on their dangerous voyage from Spain to the Americas to the Philippines.
"Saving the World" bounces back and forth between the early 19th and 21st centuries; the somewhat graceless transitions are presaged by Alma's internal struggles, as her mind wanders from her troubles toward the story that compels her.
Other messianic types vie to fill Alma's midlife void and compete with Isabel as saviors of the world: Her friend Tera is a raging extremist for all causes; the psychotic son and daughter-in-law of Alma's beloved dying neighbor call themselves "ethical terrorists," though their psychotic symptoms are limited to lurking about and making scary crank calls.
Then there are the young revolutionaries who take Richard hostage at the AIDS clinic that has become the focus of his mission to the Dominican Republic. Alma poses as a journalist and joins her husband after his abduction. The black-kerchiefed leader of the small band of rebels talks to her. " 'The questions are very simple. Why do we go hungry? Why do our people die of curable diseases? What is it that has excluded us?' "
These are indeed the questions; the answers are complex and only superficially addressed in "Saving the World," as humanitarian efforts fall to terrorism and corporate lies.
You can find the review here