Thirteen years ago, Chilean novelist Isabel Allende published a memoir, Paula, in the form of a letter to a daughter who lay in a coma. The Sum of Our Days is a sequel, also addressed to Paula, that explains what has happened to the family since her death from porphyria, a rare blood disorder, in 1992. The author, I believe, attempts three things: She defends her use of magical realism as an emotional device, demonstrating how it operates in her everyday life as well as in her novels -- which is fascinating. She explains to her deceased daughter how she has endeavored to merge her family, her second husband's previous wives and children, and various friends and acquaintances into one big "tribe" -- which is puzzling. And she tries, all too plainly, to discredit and diminish her second husband's children -- which is disturbing.Read More
"Every life can be told as a novel," remarks Allende near the start of this memoir covering the years since 1992 when she lost her daughter, Paula. Written in the style of a long letter to the much-missed girl, this book about the lives of her family is told just like a novel, even beginning with a hook: "I always approach the eighth of January with trembling."Read More
Allende, we learn, uses this date every year to start writing a new book or else risk a year of devastating bad luck. It is her grave preoccupation with superstition, tradition and spiritual enlightenment that colours and shapes this piece of autobiographical writing. The Sum Of Our Days is a book about loss, about healing; but most of all about the dynamics of a close family.
The Sum of Our Days makes frequent references to her dead daughter's spirit, which Allende believes guides her family, answering their prayers and causing good things to happen. Although to the reader this can seem misguided, even irritating, the author's grief-stricken denial of the finality of death is understandable and poignant. Her deep-rooted conviction that the living and the spirit world can interact will come as no surprise to those who read her debut 1982 novel The House Of The Spirits.
For Chilean novelist Isabel Allende, a mother-daughter bond is something to forge and nurture daily — even after death.Read More
Allende still writes a letter to her mother every day, a tradition that has endured for years. And before her daughter, Paula, died in 1992, Allende exchanged daily letters with both women.
Those letters are the cornerstone for Allende's memoir, The Sum of Our Days, which is a sequel to Paula, a memoir she wrote as her daughter was dying of the enzyme disorder porphyria. The latest installment updates Paula on what's happened to Allende and her family since Paula's death.
The Sum of Our Days begins in a forest where the family has gathered to scatter Paula's ashes. Allende tells NPR's Lynn Neary that returning to that difficult period wasn't hard for her.
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