“Riveting in its frankness and compassion, [Allende’s] account of why and how she became a writer is profoundly moving.”

“A poetically evocative, discursive rumination that meanders like a hand cut trail through a thickly brambled forest…A fascinating walkabout…Throughout, Allende’s writing is beautifully descriptive, with eloquent turns of phrase and vivid metaphors.”
The Boston Globe

“The freshest and most specific images in this book all come directly from Allende’s life. Some of the loveliest writing is about her maternal grandfather, a ‘formidable man’ who ‘gave me the gift of discipline and love for language.’ Clearly this autocratic and idiosyncratic man had a large and lasting influence on Allende, and the picture of him that she creates in these pages is full-bodied and affecting. He was a man who ‘never believed in germs, for the same reason he didn't believe in ghosts: he'd never seen one,’ and who admired the young Isabel’s desire to be strong and independent but was unable to foster or even condone such unfeminine characteristics.”
—Peter Cameron, The New York Times

“‘I can't be objective where Chile is concerned,’ writes novelist Allende in this evocative and, yes, highly personal, social geography cum memoir. Allende describes her tour of her homeland as ‘a series of reflections, which always are selective and tinted,’ and readers wouldn't want it any other way. She starts with her childhood, which ‘wasn't a happy one, but it was interesting,’ then proceeds by caroms, letting memory lead the text this way and that. She explores the country’s physiography: the inhospitable north, where flamingoes are ‘brush strokes of pink among salt crystals glittering like precious stones’; the central valley’s apples and grapes; Santiago, with ‘the pretensions of a large city but the soul of a village’; or the volcanic southern zone, with its wind and rain. Yet this is primarily a social and personal journey. Allende writes about her family’s history, about her experiences with the politesse that hides the unbreachable class system, and about the poor, who are ‘well educated, informed, and aware of their rights.’ The nation’s sobriety is matched by its violence: ‘experience has taught us that when we lose control we are capable of the worst barbarism.’ Many believe in the supernatural, and the Catholic Church’s influence is pervasive. Women, with their ‘blend of strength and flirtatiousness that few men can resist,’ are also ‘abettors of machismo: they bring up their daughters to serve and their sons to be served.’ Allende shows us organ grinders, gypsies, and hot bread. She makes connections with her books. ‘Each country has its customs, its manias, its complexes,’ she writes. ‘I know the idiosyncrasies of mine like the palm of my hand’—and there lies her nostalgia. The musicality in Allende’s voice bevels all but the melancholy, especially the sad day in 1973 when the CIA orchestrated a coup against her uncle, Salvador Allende. Dazzling as a kaleidoscope: an artful tumbling and knocking that throws light and reveals strange depths.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Isabel Allende [is] surely one of the most graceful and yet haunting writers alive.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“At every bend [Allende] delights us with unexpected humor.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“Allende’s novels—The House of the Spirits, Eva Luna, Daughter of Fortune, etc.—are of the sweeping epic variety, often historical and romantic, weaving in elements of North and South American culture. As with most fiction writers, Allende’s work is inspired by personal experiences, and in this memoir-cum-study of her ‘home ground,’ the author delves into the history, social mores and idiosyncrasies of Chile, where she was raised, showing, in the process, how that land has served as her muse. Allende was born in Peru in 1942, but spent much of her childhood—and a significant portion of her adulthood—in Santiago (she now lives in California). She ruminates on Chilean women (their ‘attraction lies in a blend of strength and flirtatiousness that few men can resist’); the country’s class system (‘our society is like a phyllo pastry, a thousand layers, each person in his place’); and Chile’s turbulent history (‘the political pendulum has swung from one extreme to another; we have tested every system of government that exists, and we have suffered the consequences’). She readily admits her view is subjective—to be sure, she is not the average Chilean (her stepfather was a diplomat; her uncle, Salvador Allende, was Chile’s president from 1970 until his assassination in 1973). And at times, her assessments transcend Chile, especially when it comes to comments on memory and nostalgia. This is a reflective book, lacking the pull of Allende’s fiction but unearthing intriguing elements of the author’s captivating history.”
Publishers Weekly

“The book graphically illustrates the traits Allende attributes to Chileans—it is self-absorbed, willfully paradoxical and often irritating, but at least it is never boring. A plateful of noodles, perhaps, but very nicely spiced.”
—Joanne Omang, The Washington Post

“Poignant…Allende’s keen intelligence and lively prose keep readers wishing for more.”
The San Diego Union-Tribune

“A delicious exploration.”
Orlando Sentinel

“Allende, the best-selling author of The House of the Spirits and Portrait in Sepia, here offers a moving portrait of her native Chile and, by looking back on her youth, family, and country’s history, considers how Chile has shaped her writing. Focusing on the unique characteristics of the country and its people, she reveals incidents and individuals—both friends and family—who figure in her semiautobiographical novels. She also talks briefly about Pinochet’s 1973 coup, but more information about the author’s experience and opinions on that topic can be found in her memoir Paula, which is the story of her life written during the illness and death of her daughter. Her current memoir is entertaining and provides a fuller understanding of her works.”
—Sheila Kasperek, Library Journal

“Marvelous…Allende’s love for Chile is so evident and eloquent that many readers will consider packing their bags and booking the next flight to Santiago.”

“[Allende’s] work is filled with strong and strongly feeling women. This book reveals such a woman, reviewing her life, her work, and her country, with honesty, wit, and poetic flair.”
The Richmond Times-Dispatch

“When Allende poses sweeping general truths, she leaves room for argument. When with broad brushstrokes she summarizes recent history, I am not completely convinced. But the book gets my undivided attention when it expounds on the relationship of the author to that country of hers, invented, imaginary, fictional, to the story of her family, which is itself invented memory, and to her vocation as a narrator. We discover that the writer, throughout a difficult life of wandering and uncertainty, acquired a certainty, a strong territory of her own, a grounding, in her narratives. This for writers, or nonwriters for that matter, is the most suggestive, most instructive, aspect of the work.”
—Jorge Edwards, Los Angeles Times

“Allende was inspired to write this glimmering and audacious memoir of her life as a traveler, exile, and immigrant by an eerie overlaying of dates. She lost a country, she writes, on Tuesday, September 11, 1973, when a military coup brought down Chile’s democratic government, then headed by Salvador Allende, a cousin of her father’s. And she gained a country on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, when the terrorist attacks induced her to recognize her deep allegiance to the U.S., her adopted land. Drawing on the profoundly fluent storytelling skills and canniness that make her fiction so scintillating and her memoirs so powerful, Allende retraces her circuitous path from Santiago circa 1940 to today’s San Francisco, remembering her family and critiquing her country with equal measures of nostalgia and pain, fury and humor. She observes curtly that in her eccentric family ‘happiness was irrelevant,’ but she saves her sharpest remarks for her dissection of the Chilean sensibility, zestfully analyzing Chile’s obsession with class, all-out machismo, habitual hypocrisy, intolerance, conservatism, clannishness, and gloominess. She claims that Chileans love bureaucracy, ‘states of emergency,’ funerals, and soap operas, and that, in the Chile of her youth, ‘intellectual scorn for women was absolute.’ Allende’s conjuring of her ‘invented,’ or imaginatively remembered, country is riveting in its frankness and compassion, and her account of why and how she became a writer is profoundly moving.”
—Donna Seaman, Booklist