Allende’s Long-Awaited Return

As I mentioned some weeks back, it's been four years since Isabel Allende wrote a novel, and some of us—including myself and my dad, who is arguably her biggest fan—have been waiting impatiently for Island Beneath The Sea ($26.99, amazon.com).

Allende sets her newest book in Haiti during the tyrannical colonial era and the revolution at the turn of the 19th century—which resulted in the first free nation of former slaves in the world. Her heroine is Teté, whose mother, raped by a white sailor on the slave ship journey from Africa, kills herself shortly after giving birth. Teté is then bought by a deeply conflicted French plantation owner named Toulouse Valmorain, who also enslaves her, sexually. After becoming a surrogate mother to Valmorain’s demented Spanish wife Eugenia, Teté has two children of her own, one of them potentially with a younger slave named Gambo. As the idea of revolution begins to spread like wildfire throughout the island, Teté plots her escape (and that of the Valmorains) to New Orleans. There, she becomes immersed in a new culture where Spanish and French whites intermingle with Caribbean blacks (both free and in bondage) while staying true to all that she's brought with her from Haiti (voodoo traditions, for instance). For once, she can start to hope for the future in this great, new world.

See our list of 25 other books, including Allende's debut, The House of Spirits, that every Latina should read.

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