A novel about love and despair in all their shapes; one by one, Allende’s characters go through life cherishing the good and leaving behind the bad – a friend’s unconditional love, the gratefulness of an adoptive mother, childhood memories, fiery and passionate flings, shallow romances, unattached parents-children relationships, consequences of narrow-minded mentalities, betrayals, shattered hearts, promises and dreams.
A novel about segregation and political unrest. The rough lives of the Latin American communities in the USA are reflected through the unmet expectations of the ‘American dream’, a Nirvana state of mind that never reaches materialisation. There is an amalgam of injustices, from the Americans who discriminate and marginalise the Hispanics on the grounds of their immigrant status, to the Latin Americans, who belittle the Asians and the black communities in the barrio because of their skin colour. Depicting an endless circle of racial abuse and exclusion that populated the American society in the 20th century, Allende succeeds in building a narrative that resonates with each of us, be it for empathy, disgust or justice reasons. In this societal chaos, Greg finds his origins positioning himself as both the victim and the ‘favoured’; while in the Hispanic Californian barrio he first stands out as an outsider and a gringo, having been tormented, bullied and raped by the ‘machos’, he later experiences the advantages of being white by securing a place at university – as higher education was often denied to minority groups.
A story about dreams, possibilities and opportunities. In the library, a young Greg meets the communist lift-man, who instills in him the hunger for reading and the seed for knowledge that would further rise him above his condition. Travelling the world, the childhood barrio friend, Carmen, becomes a magnificent and powerful woman, who makes peace with her past (having been driven out of the village by her family after a terrifying, almost deadly experience of an illegal abortion) and rises like a Phoenix from her ashes.
I have always been a fan of the Latin American literature, which is as passionate, vivid and warm as their language and culture, and Isabel Allende’s ‘The Infinite Plan‘ is no exception. I particularly enjoyed how the novel walks you through the hurdles of life, as well as its little things that bring one joy and happiness. Life is never a straight line coloured in black and white, and I believe Allende managed to write a saga that has beautifully captured something very human and random: miserable childhoods, poverty, fruitful relationships, failed ones, dreams, love, ignorance, mistakes, pain, terror, redemption, life and death.
“When a man’s earning his living doing things he doesn’t like, he feels like a slave; when he’s doing what he loves, he feels like a prince.”
“Don’t ever say that again.. even joking. You’re going to live out your life, no matter how much it hurts.“