Read Saving the World by Julia Alvarez Online


Latina novelist Alma Huebner is suffering from writer's block and is years past the completion date for yet another of her bestselling family sagas. Her husband, Richard, works for a humanitarian organization dedicated to the health and prosperity of developing countries and wants her help on an extended AIDS assignment in the Dominican Republic. But Alma begs off joiningLatina novelist Alma Huebner is suffering from writer's block and is years past the completion date for yet another of her bestselling family sagas. Her husband, Richard, works for a humanitarian organization dedicated to the health and prosperity of developing countries and wants her help on an extended AIDS assignment in the Dominican Republic. But Alma begs off joining him: the publisher is breathing down her neck. She promises to work hard and follow him a bit later. The truth is that Alma is seriously sidetracked by a story she has stumbled across. It's the story of a much earlier medical do-gooder, Spaniard Francisco Xavier Balmis, who in 1803 undertook to vaccinate the populations of Spain's American colonies against smallpox. To do this, he required live "carriers" of the vaccine. Of greater interest to Alma is Isabel Sendales y Gómez, director of La Casa de Expósitos, who was asked to select twenty-two orphan boys to be the vaccine carriers. She agreed— with the stipulation that she would accompany the boys on the proposed two-year voyage. Her strength and courage inspire Alma, who finds herself becoming obsessed with the details of Isabel's adventures. This resplendent novel-within-a-novel spins the disparate tales of two remarkable women, both of whom are swept along by machismo. In depicting their confrontation of the great scourges of their respective eras, Alvarez exposes the conflict between altruism and ambition....

Title : Saving the World
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781565125582
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 400 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Saving the World Reviews

  • Erin
    2019-05-13 03:18

    I actively decided to stop reading this book, over 3/4 of the way through. Enough was enough. And stopping a book once I've started it is a rare occurrence. I was surprised myself--I loved Alvarez's "In the Time of the Butterflies", but this was nowhere near up to that standard. It was interesting, up to a point--it had to be, to get that far through it. But then, the present-day half of the story just got too ridiculous. I disliked the main character throughout (being what appeared to be a shallowly disguised version of Alvarez herself, what with all the complaints about writer's block and the publishing industry), but her actions during her visit to the Dominican Republic just became unbelievable and outlandish. The 19th century half of the story was certainly the better part of the book, but in the end still not good enough to make me want to keep slogging through the present-day drivel.

  • Rebecca
    2019-05-15 01:15

    This belongs that hit or miss category of novel that attempts to connect a contemporary story rooted in the modern woes of a writer/journalist with the subject of her historical research. The novel becomes the story of two women from vastly different circumstances and eras whose stories begin to merge. The great risk in writing a novel with distinct story lines is that one will be far more compelling than the other. Such is the case with Saving the World. The story involving an expedition of twenty-two orphans boys and their guardian, Isabel Sendales y Gomez, on 19th century quest to rid of the world of small pox, is a fascinating one. Isabel is a complex and courageous woman and the circumstances surrounding her make for a compelling plot line. By contrast, the story of Alma Huebner, a novelist pulled into Isabel's story amidst mid-life crisis and writer's block, is far less riveting. Where things really go awry, as they do so often in these narrative duets, is when the author attempts to, either through plot or theme, intersect the lives of the lead protagonists. What was believable becomes silly coincidence. Plot twists feel forced into shape, leaving the reader to divest themselves of any connection they might have once felt for the modern characters.Alvarez is a skilled writer who I think attempted to do too much with this story. She didn't seem to trust in the original inspiration for the story (a footnote on the Royal Smallpox Expedition that had been turned away from the Dominican Republic) to carry the novel. Not every novelist can take on historical fiction in a compelling way. Alvarez is more than up to the task.

  • Lee
    2019-05-02 03:20

    Two stories alternately told are separated by time but linked thematically. Excellent story (ies), beautifully written. I thought it "worked" overall and was fascinated by the true story of the Spanish Royal Philanthropic Expedition which I had never heard of until I read this book. Although some critics have disliked Alma, the contemporary protagonist, I thought Alvarez really captured the self absorption (and attendant consequences of this modern malaise) so rampant today.

  • Jenny Maloney
    2019-05-18 06:17

    I really loved the parallels that Alvarez created in this book:Smallpox-AIDSAlma (woman touched by idealistic man in today's world)-Isabel (woman touched by idealistic man in yesterday's world)Richard (idealistic man today)-Francisco Balmis (idealistic man yesterday)Basically Alma's husband is trying to develop a vaccine for AIDS in the Dominican Republic and Isabel is in charge of a group of orphans who are carrying the small pox vaccine to the New World. This story is about the casualties that are involved when you try to save the world. Who is affected? Who can be saved? Are people worth saving when there's war and poverty and all kinds of man-made badness?Alvarez avoids being preachy and she doesn't judge her characters, which I really, really appreciate. This is all about what the reader puts in and pulls out. And, like I said before, the parallels are very interesting as they develop.My only issue was the pacing--and it was slow. Very slow. Plus there is a subplot involving Alma's dying neighbor that I'm still a bit fuzzy on. However, none of this put me off going out and buying How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. So we'll see what else Alvarez has got up her sleeve....

  • Hawley
    2019-05-21 02:12

    I am almost done with this book and have discovered something. There are two female characters and each chapter alternates between the two. The challenge is that one, Alma, seems like a much more lively and realistic character - however, in THESE chapters, Julia Alvarez chooses to make very obvious statements to relate Alma's situation to that of the other character, Isabel. It's a bit like show-and-tell in kindergarten or something. It's just a bit over the top in trying to force teh connection between the two stories. I'd prefer the book to be about only one of the characters with less telling and more showing. But, that being said, it's not horrid. It's just not a "one of my favorites, can't put it down" kind of read.

  • Ana Ovejero
    2019-05-12 05:18

    quotes I like:"There has to be a place left in modern life for a crisis of the soul, a dark night that doesn't have a chemical solution.""people don't just belong to themselves, ..., they belong to the people who love them.""...they keep the world running.Somebody's got to do it. Just like someone has to go to the edge and look and come back and tell about it. That was always her part, Alma thought. But what if what she has seen is not something she wants to broadcast? What is there is nothing but the still, sad music of humanity over that edge? What does she come back and tell? We're floating on faith. We're floating on love. We, the lucky ones."

  • Hennessey Library
    2019-05-22 05:18

    When I turned to the first page ofSaving the Worldby Julia Alvarez and discovered it was written in present tense, I was very put-off. The old English teacher in me knew I couldn't read a longish book all in present tense, but I don't give up easily, and I'm glad I did not. Ms. Alvarez reeled me in early and kept me with her to the end.I too have a story about an author writing a story buzzing around in my brain deflecting my energies from the final book of a trilogy with which I have grown really bored, so I approached this book with some anticipation, curious as to how Ms. Alvarez would accomplish the task. Alternating chapters and present tense/past tense verb changes helped.Her protagonist, Alma, struggles (notice the present tense) with the realization that everything in her life will now be about loss. She is fifty and sees the future that those of us who have reached the mid-point understand--our loved ones will die, we will lose our abilities,and, though there are still triumphs ahead, the path will inevitably be strewn with loss. It is a form of depression, all who live into those years must walk through. There is no overcoming. Alma understands this and is walking through. Her chapters drift episodically, as her life drifts--a good life with good friends and a sweet husband who loves her. I made my peace with the present tense verb, realizing that Alma is very present tense, the past is finished and the future ominous--she sees trouble coming and expects it in familiar places.Alma's protagonist, Isabel,is an outgrowth of Alma's malaise, a determined young woman, scarred by smallpox, who makes her way heroically through life, as Alma can no longer do. Isabel is who the author wishes she could be, and as Alma's life unravels, her imaginary other sustains her.Chapters alternate between the present with Alma unable to complete a book she has promised her publisher and the historical past with Isabel, the rectoress of an orphanage, shepherding her boys through a long expedition to the New World as they carry the serum for smallpox eradication transmitted from one to another through the voyage. The English teacher relaxes with the familiar narrative past tense of the historical chapters.Both women must confront the concessions that are made to fulfill noble missions, and experience the tensions and disappointment, even tragedy, attendant on living for a Higher Cause. Both women must learn to live with their love for men who care more about saving the world than the women in their lives. What Alma cannot work out in her own life, she works out for Isabel. That's what authors do.Ms. Alvarez pictures for her readers the interior life of a writer. Everything is framed by story, all of life is story. Alma sees her acquaintances as stereotypes--the Activist, the Saintly Friend, the Unbalanced Catalyst. She fears her beloved husband is the Unfaithful Husband. Events play out according to her interior script. There is the Ominous Stranger who may (or may not) have evil designs on his mother. Alma reacts according to her interior script and the reader must decide whether she sets in motion her own tragedies or whether there truly are sinister undertows. Life lived by story is very untidy.In contrast, the story within a story is under control from beginning to end, and readers disturbed by the messy realities of Alma's life will find familiar sailing here. Heroine, conflict, resolution--It's what we want. It's what Alma wants.There is a poignancy here, endings in which both author and her creation move on, one given a satisfactory ending, the other facing loss, but both putting one foot in front of the other, characters now outside their own stories for good or ill.Best for women after 45, or men out toSave the World.~mary

  • Jessica
    2019-04-29 05:34

    I loved In the Time of the Butterflies, so when my brand-new library card and I came upon a Julia Alvarez book I'd never heard of, we decided to give it a try.Well...In the Time of the Butterflies this book ain't. There's very little action, and it switches back and forth between its two stories without really doing a good enough job of unifying the two. We start out reading the story of Alma, a modern-day Dominican woman living in Vermont, trying and failing to finish the novel she's been promising to her publisher for years. Her publisher wants a saga novel about a Dominican family, but Alma keeps getting distracted by the story of the Spanish Royal Philanthropic Expedition to carry smallpox vaccine to the New World in the 1800s. It seems a nun named Isabel had come along to supervise the young boys who served as a living chain of vaccine carriers, and while Isabel is barely a footnote in the books Alma has read, she's fascinated by this lone woman traveling in a world of men. The book then shifts to Isabel's story, and we learn about how she was able to talk her way onto the ship to accompany the boys from her orphanage so that they are not left without a nurturing, mothering influence as they head off into the great unknown. It really feels like Alvarez wants us to relate more to Alma's story; it's the present-day one and Alma is clearly a stand-in for Alvarez herself and it's never even completely clear from the book whether we're truly reading Isabel's thoughts or whether the Isabel chapters are actually the novel Alma eventually sets out to write about her. Nevertheless, Alma's chapters are generally slow and tedious - she's just too selfish, self-centered, and boring with her writer's block and her marital dissatisfaction and her overall desire for everyone to leave her alone. Isabel's story is where most of the action lies, yet it's written in a way that keeps the reader at arm's length the whole time. And when Alma's story does begin seeing some action, it's too little too late, and I just don't have the sympathy for her that I need to have to feel compelled by the things that happen to her.For all I'm being hard on this book in this review, though, it's not as bad as I'm making it out to be. Isabel's story in particular was fascinating to read - I think I just would have rather had a story about her than this alternating-narrator business I got instead.

  • Abigail
    2019-05-18 07:31

    AWFUL. I can't believe I even picked this book back up after I motored through HP7. What a waste of time. Extremely redundant, which actually hurt my writerly soul.Previously I had said:I've only just begun this book, so it's hard to say how good it will end up being. The novel follows Alma, a 49-year-old woman attempting to pull herself out of a depressive funk who is attempting to write another novel. However she keeps finding herself sidetracked with a the novel's side research--a sea voyage in which a rectoress and 22 orphan boys are being used as carriers for the first smallpox vaccination. (Those of you who know me well are likely not surprised; I do enjoy a good disease book.)The chapters alternate between Alma's story, as her husband travels to the DR and she stays home to finish the novel (and thus far also to wallow in self pity) and the story of the ship's crew as they travel on their mission of mercy. This is very tough literary tact for a writer to utilize successfully, this hopping back and forth, and I haven't yet decided whether it's working for me. Thus far, the smallpox side of the story is the more compelling half.

  • Heather
    2019-04-29 06:08

    This book nearly received a 1-star rating so happy was I to be finally finished with it. It always seem that when a book flip-flops between 2 different story lines (in this book one is the present-day story of a depressed writer whose husband is off on an ecological mission and the other is the story of a nun in the 1800s who takes off on the only potential adventure of her lifetime to spread the small pox vaccination) you always want more of one and less of another... That feeling that when you finish one chapter you're obliged to get through the next detour to get back to "your" story. There was enough that was redeeming about both stories to get this up to a 2, but I wouldn't strongly recommend.

  • Marvin
    2019-05-07 04:38

    A Latina writer suffering depression & failure to complete a contracted novel stays behind in Vermont as her husband goes to the Dominican Republic, her home country, to manage an environmental project. The writer's interest shifts from the multigenerational Latina saga she's supposed to be writing to the story of a woman, a preceptress of an orphanage in Spain, who participates in an expedition in 1803-5 to carry a smallpox vaccination around the world. In both cases, the principal actors must balance their impulse to "save the world" against commitments to personal loved ones. A pretty strong novel recommended by Darlene but one whose style somehow didn't particularly appeal to me.

  • Marissa Garcia-sanchez
    2019-05-24 08:14

    Two "parallel" stories are being told. I wish the author had chosen just to write the historical novel. The story of how the smallpox vaccine was transported across the ocean was fascinating, especially because of the perspective it was told from. I found Isabel to be a captivating narrator and I couldn't put the book down when reading the chapters told from her perspective. The Alma chapters were dry and neither the narrator nor the story hooked me.I would recommend readers just read the chapters of this book relating to Isabel and the smallpox vaccine. That story, and the narrator's voice telling it, are something I'll never forget.

  • Correen
    2019-05-04 02:36

    I had a hard time connecting with this book, much of it seemed overwritten, wringing out every bit of emotion to the point of dragging the story. When she got near the end, the story held it's own and it is a wonderful story -- well worth reading. I liked her two threads of the story and she did an excellent job of mirroring the early story in the modern one. I thought that was the best part of the book.

  • Megan
    2019-05-07 03:24

    Fascinating story about a Spanish expedition to bring a small pox vaccine via live carriers (orphans) to Spanish colonies. It's weaved together with a current story about a writer struggling with a novel and her husband who goes to the Dominican Republic to manage a sustainable agriculture project.

  • alicia
    2019-05-19 03:24

    It took me the first hundred or so pages to get into the two stories within this one. But once I did I was "infected with questions" about what it means to save the world, to love and to let go. By the end I loved this book as much as Alvarez's others.

  • Burgess (Burgie)
    2019-05-25 08:29

    Wonder if I would have enjoyed as much (or more) if I'd read instead of listened to it. Reminded me a little of Gilbert's The Signature of All Things.

  • Theresa
    2019-05-16 03:26

    Listened to this as an audio book. Really enjoyed both Alma and Isabelle's stories!

  • Lori
    2019-04-28 05:16

    Enter the world of Alma, suffering from writers block on her book that she'd already been given an advance for, and Isabel, in charge of twenty-one orphans who were vaccine carriers for a smallpox mission. Alma's husband Richard travels to the Dominican Republic for a humanitarian journey, expecting Alma to come along to visit her homeland. But she remains home, struggling with her writer's block and trying to reconcile the story she was supposed to be writing with the tale she wanted to tell -- Isabel's journey. Researching and writing the story of Isabel and the mission to eradicate smallpox helps Alma in her struggle to move forward, to reconcile her life and Richard's journey to battle the AIDS epidemic. The book shifts chapter by chapter between the two characters, Alma in the present and Isabel in the early 1800s. Each setting draws the reader in, leaving a longing to know more, to experience some part of each woman's life for just a few minutes more. Wishing there was some way to help when the tales go awry.It was a little slow in the beginning, I had a difficult time slipping between the two worlds and meeting the characters. As the tale progressed, their tales caught my attention and drew me forward, though I was more interested in the tale of Isabel and the smallpox expedition than in Alma's story.

  • Isis Flores
    2019-05-17 01:36

    I couldn't even finish it. Life's too short for books like this, it's so dull. I had to force myself to read through the first half and decided to just stop. I was drawn to it by the cover & title, one of my worse mistakes. Don't recommend it, at all.

  • Kassie Shanafelt
    2019-05-22 00:14

    This book fucked me up. Did not see that coming.

  • Emma
    2019-05-12 06:21

    This was 2 different stories linked together. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me.

  • Elsje
    2019-05-19 03:12

    Dit is het derde boek van Alvarez dat ik las. Lang, lang geleden las ik 'In de tijd van de vlinders', later 'In de naam van Salomé' en nu dan 'Een betere wereld'.Alvarez schrijft over sterke vrouwen, die het nodige meemaken in onder druk staande maatschappijen. Verder komt regelmatig het letterlijk leven tussen twee culturen in naar voren. Zo ook in dit boek.Hier draait het om twee vrouwen. Ten eerste een schrijfster, Alma, die op jonge leeftijd de Dominicaanse Republiek ontvluchtte en nu, op 50-jarige leeftijd in een dorp in Vermont leeft. Zo'n dorp waar niets gebeurt, waar iedereen via de achterdeur bij zijn buren naar binnen gaat etc. In die troosteloze omgeving wordt ze geacht hard te werken aan haar nieuwe roman, een Caribische familiekroniek, maar dat wil nog niet zo vlotten. Hierdoor raakt Alma in een depressie. Aan het begin van het boek staat Alma op het punt de hele onderneming maar te laten voor wat het is.Haar Amerikaanse man Richard werkt voor een internationale hulporganisatie en wordt naar de Domincaanse Republiek uitgezonden om daar een 'Ecocentrum' te starten, als zoethoudertje voor de bewoners van het dorp waar een Amerikaanse farmaceut een AIDS-vaccin klinisch test.Tegelijkertijd lezen we een verhaal waar Alma aan werkt, het relaas van Doña Isabel, een Spaanse rectrix van een weeshuis. Zij krijgt in 1803 een afgezant van de Spaanse koning, Don Francisco Balmis, op bezoek die haar meedeelt dat ´haar jongens´ door de koning zijn uitverkoren om het pokkenvaccin, wat in die tijd net ontdekt was, naar de Nieuwe Wereld te brengen. Als levende dragers, wel te verstaan. Isabel laat haar jongens niet alleen en reist met ze mee. Het ve rslag van die reis wordt afwisselend verteld met het verhaal over Alma.Natuurlijk zijn de parallellen tussen beide vrouwen snel te trekken: beiden hebben geen eigen kinderen, maar zorgen voor de kinderen van een ander (Alma voor de zonen van Richard, Isabel voor de weesjongens). Beiden vallen ze voor de gedrevenheid waarmee de mannen in hun leven (Richard en Don Francisco) zich inzetten voor verbetering van de omstandigheden van minder fortuinlijken dan zijzelf.In beide gevallen betreft het een vaccin tegen een tot dan toe nog onbehandelbare, dodelijke, ziekte (pokken, AIDS). In beide gevallen is de ontvangst van deze wereldverbeteraars niet alleen maar met tromgeroffel en gejuich omlijst. Tegenwerking van de onderkoning in Mexico in het geval van Isabel en een gijzelingsactie in het geval van Alma maken de hoofdpersonen in het boek twijfelen aan zichzelf en hun missie.Toch lopen beide verhalen niet geheel synchroon, en dat maakt het einde minder voorspelbaar dan ik vreesde.In het algemeen is het een prettig geschreven boek, al moet ik eerlijk toegeven dat ik de verhaallijn van Isabel interessanter vond dan die van Alma. Kennlijk kan ik me beter identificeren met een vrouw die een hele hoop kinderen om zich heen heeft dan met een vrouw van 50 die aan een depressie lijdt... :-) En ook het Amerikaanse tintje aan het verhaal van Alma en haar man vond ik minder geslaagd dan de meer Caribisch geörienteerde romans die Alvarez eerder afleverde. Ergo, prima leesvoer maar als je moet kiezen uit verschillende boeken van Alvarez, dan zou ik eerder geneigd zijn om 'In de tijd van de vlinders' of 'In de naam van Salomé' aan te raden.Vertaald door Ineke van BronswijkOorspronkelijke titel: Saving the world (2006)

  • Holly
    2019-05-02 04:17

    In "Saving the World" Alvarez alternates two parallel stories: those of Alma Huebner, set in modern day, and Isabel Sendales y Gomez, a Spanish woman who sailed to the New World w/ twenty-odd orphans to vaccinate for small pox in 1803. Alma is a fiction writer who is struggling w/ depression/malaise as she works on her latest serial story for her publisher. She is fascinated with Isabel's story; avoiding work on her commissioned novel, she works instead on a historical fiction rendition of Isabel's story, finding overlaps between the scary modern world of terrorism and the exploitation of the poor in Isabel's situation, highlighting that in the wake of good intentions often lies a minefield of moral quandary. As she struggles with her place as a Dominican Republic immigrant living in comfort in America and the role of her husband in Help International, Alma explores Isabel's status as a woman who has a place in the world, who made a lasting and historical impact while also facing similar moral questions.This is a very structured novel, and its structure is meant to be very obvious to the reader. Both women face danger and conflict. Both are aware of the mix of altruism and selfishness present in their decisions and place in the world. Both navigate the hierarchies present in their societies to achieve their goals. Both are aware of and protect their independence. Both make their way through expectations the world has of them based on their race and culture. Both have more than one name to the world, a sort of split identity. Both must come to terms with being alone.It is clear that disease and infection in the book are a metaphor for the ills of our modern, capitalistic world. Alma is aware that her contribution is her novels; she finds her friend Tera overzealous in her fixation on the next cause. She admires her husband Richard's dedication to Help International but finds him a bit naive. She is aware of how ironic it is that she, who has everything, is suffering with a bout of depression.Why not more stars? I struggled w/ the suspension of disbelief Alvarez would like from the reader. It's all a little too much for one person, all at once: Alma receives a crank call about AIDs plus a fake scare about a deadly virus plus a hostage situation in the Dominican Republic? Despite our scary, mixed up world, I don't feel this is the modern condition. Further, the structure and message almost takes over the story itself; sometimes I felt I was being hit over the head with it.Alvarez's women always seem aware of their sins, flaws that would largely be missed by casual observers; they are self-aware of how they could be better people, of their flaws. Do they therefore live in a state of constant self-forgiveness? I had no trouble connecting with Alma; it was often eerie how much I related to the way she thought (e.g. this idea of one's professional, personal "brand" - are we all for sale?)

  • Demetria
    2019-05-17 05:28

    Good. Learned about a historical event I did know. Slightly disappointed with modern-day story ending.

  • Benji
    2019-05-15 07:23

    Very similar to HENDERSON THE RAIN KING in that I completely was unable to judge where the plot might be heading. Recommended, worth reading, if only for that. But Julia Alvarez is capable and it's important Before I review, I like to see what other people have said, their likes and dislikes with the book. Did I like Alma? Not particularly. Doesn't mean I didnt appreciate following her. I feel like its easy to point to the dual narratives being didactic, and maybe it was, and I found myself skimming parts. But the wealth here is in the nuance. As a Peace Corps volunteer, she hits all of the critiques of development squarely, while still pointing out the need to do it in a better way. That said, she also skewers the picture of the brave rebel that desires to make a proclamation to the world. At the beginning, I had difficulty taking the book seriously, but I felt this wa My Dominican friend is reading the book now, and Im curious about what she will say. It is refreshing to see a picture of a jaded Latina woman, who is so far from the stereotype. Also, I think having some knowledge of first generation immigrants is important to appreciate the nuance that makes the book worth reading. I could definitely relate to her comments about earning street-cred by being in the field, but choosing not to do that as she felt the bonus points for her reputation were not worth being something she wasn't 'living life based on other people's expectations'. Another such thing, as well, is the disdain expressed by her character for having so many people need her to know everything about her country of origin, then deride her and accuse her of not being authentic enough because she doesn't. For this, the book seemed at times like a list of grievances and explanations, but like with Martin Luther or something, they seemed necessary and I got a lot from them. Equally good were the subtexts around the two idealistic men. The extent to which they are able to sell their souls to corporations and potentially give their lives in order to make a positive difference. The ability of Richard to convince himself that the community center would be a boon to the community even while being financed and used by an AIDS company, one with shady practices and which skirts around the US laws on first human trials.

  • Cristina
    2019-04-27 05:10

    Hmmm. Well, the book kept me going, but it became a bit ridiculous at some point. There are really two stories in the book and one of them is far more interesting than the other. I thought the historical research Alvarez did and presented in the book about the first smallpox vaccine was intriguing and amazing, but about 3/4 of the way through, it's as though she wanted to wrap up the book but had too much to tell still so she skipped a lot and lost some of the rapport the reader built with Isabel. Nevertheless, that story was interesting. Now, the other story did not flow well for me. I never got a really good sense of the personality of the main character, Alma. She was depressed, she loved her husband, she wanted time away from him, she loved Helen, an old neighbor in failing health, and she had a great friendship with her best friend. Alma is a writer who has abandoned a large saga that she was committed to write. Okay, that's fine. She became interested in the story of Isabel and Don Francisco and their expedition to vaccinate the world against smallpox. I liked that. I also liked the relationship Alma had with Helen and Tera (her best friend), but once Helen's son came into the picture things got weird. It was fine at first, but then Alvarez made him crazy, married to a crazy woman, and they did even crazier stuff. Here Helen is dying and Alvarez makes up this cockamamie story in which Alma's husband is taken hostage in a foreign country so Alma drops everything, including Helen, to save the day. I mean, okay, your husband or your neighbor, it seems obvious who you'd choose. But the idea that all this crazy stuff was going on at once was unbelievable and a little tiresome.And then it ended so bleakly. Okay, the last couple of pages had a glimmer of hope, but honestly, things didn't turn out the way you'd hope for either Isabel or Alma. I saw if coming with Isabel--at least she led a noble life, but Alma. Meh. I read the book rather quickly, so like I said, it kept me going but I just kept hoping for something different. Alvarez's twists and turns were unsatisfactory.I was going to give the book three stars, but I think I'll change it to two.

  • Shandy Potes mangra
    2019-05-06 01:27

    I found it clever how Alvarez was able to wrap the protagonist's interest in writing a historical fiction novel into the story. Every other chapter is written from the perspective of Isabel, a Spanish nun, and her embarkation on the Maria Pita along with the 22 little orphan boys under her guardianship. My favorite parts of Saving the World, were these historical fiction pieces. I l was able to learn about the Spanish expedition to bring the smallpox vaccine to the Americas, and the unrest of the new colonies against Spanish rule.

  • Nancy
    2019-05-19 02:24

    Unlike some other books ("Sarah's Key" is a prime example) in which chapters alternate between two different stories with one story being much more interesting than the other, both the stories in "Saving the World" were compelling. I enjoyed the back-and-forth story-lines because they were related in themes and commented brilliantly on each other. The framing story has a main character very similar to Julia Alvarez: a woman author native to the Dominican Republic now living in the United States. The character, Alma, is going through a crisis in her life. She has lost interest in the superficial family saga book that she has been contracted to write. Instead she becomes focused on an historical event involving another woman going through a similar crisis of confidence in life and its meaning. That woman, Isabel, was a real person, although nothing is known of her other than the fact she was present on an expedition from Spain to the New World in 1804. The purpose of the expedition was to introduce the smallpox vaccine to the Americas and eradicate the disease. Amazingly enough, this was done by transporting 22 orphan boys from Spain to the New World, using them as the necessary vaccine carriers. (They were inoculated in succession as the ship made its way across the Atlantic.) It was an audacious plan at the time ... and even more so to our modern sensibilities. The idea of using poor children, some as young as 3 years old, who were unable to consent or even understand what was happening to them seems grossly immoral. And yet isn't that done to a certain extent today by drug companies who test their new drugs in third world countries? Alma sees the connection because her husband is involved in a project near an AIDS clinic in the Dominican Republic. Both Alma's story and Isabel's raise interesting and provocative questions: What does it mean to "save the world"? Is it possible to act for good in the world without inadvertently hurting someone? Is a worthy end (the elimination of disease) a justification for dubious means?

  • Katie
    2019-05-02 00:34

    Alma knows she's fully reached mid-life crisis when she begins questioning the relevancy of her life. Sure, she's a beloved wife and published author, but something feels missing. Her book's deadline has passed, and she still has no book to show for it. While she loves her husband, she receives a disturbing call from an anonymous woman, stating that the woman had slept with Alma's husband and transmitted AIDS to him. In the midst of all of this, Alma begins learning about a woman, Isabel, who volunteered to travel from Spain to the Americas to bring the Smallpox vaccine to those who needed it. Isabel, along with the 22 orphan boys from the orphanage where she's devoted her life, embark on a 2 year voyage to save the world from Smallpox. As Alma learns of Isabel, her own husband, Richard, leaves for the Dominican Republic to embark on a similar voyage where, once in the DR, he will work in an AIDS clinic. As Alma's life intersects with Isabel's, she learns how great a cost "saving the world" brings with it.I did enjoy this book, but for the first 150 pages or so, nothing much happened. Isabel's story remained pretty static--shipbound days with antsy orphans. Alma's life didn't differ much either--stress of not writing a book and worrying about her neighbors health. Towards the end of the book, lots of real action starting taking place, but it almost seemed out of place after such a long and drawn out beginning. I found both Alma and Isabel slightly boring--they weren't very complex people and didn't experience much in the way of change by the story's end. I thought this book could have been great, and I was certainly interested in the subject. However, it was an "almost" book to me. It was almost life-changing. Almost interesting. Almost important. But it never quite reached the point of being any of those things. While I liked it, it was something of a disappointment.

  • P.D.R. Lindsay
    2019-04-25 03:23

    This is one of those books composed of several layers, like a torte. In present day America we have Alma, turning fifty, depressed and lost. We have Helen, Alma's elderly neighbour making her last fight against cancer. Back in 1803 in Spain we have Dona Isabel Sendales Y Gomez, the only survivor in her family when the smallpox epidemic occurred, and the rectoress of an orphanage. How are they connected? By the men in their lives, all of whom are trying to save the world. Alma's husband, Richard works for a large organization that helps the Third World. He gets the chance to have hands-on experience with a project in the Dominican Republic, Alma's home country. Part of the project is an AIDS clinic. Dona Isabel is asked to help a doctor, Don Francisco Xavier Balmis, director of the King's Expedition, use her orphan boys to carry the smallpox vaccine to the New World where an epidemic is raging. Helen's son comes home to help her die and sort himself out. The novel focusses on the decisions the three women make. Alma decides to stay at home, find herself and finish researching about Dona Isabel and her smallpox carriers, letting Richard go by himself into a situation where he really does need her. Dona Isabel decides that her smallpox scarred life in Spain will never change and asks to go with her chosen boys to South America. She supports Don Francisco in order to keep the expedition going and save other from smallpox. Helen decides to die at home, without further treatment. The results of these decisions make for a story that explores how personal hurt, pain and anger can be turned into purposeful action, or not, and how saving the world can sometimes mean saving oneself. 'Saving the World' is a written in the present tense and a slow read, but it's worth the effort. It’s a good book for making the reader think.