NOTE: I received early access to this manuscript in exchange for writing an impartial review. Thank you NetGalley and Ballantine Books. Publication Date: June 6, 2023.
Isabel Allende is one of my favorite authors, in part because of her skillful use of language which so often reads more like poetry. I don’t think this particular novel is her best, although the prose is still top notch. What makes it worth reading though is her ability to create a handful of distinctive characters readers will care about. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.
THE WIND KNOWS MY NAME makes some interesting connections between seemingly disparate stories in different time periods. It begins with Kristallnacht in 1938 in Vienna. The Adlers, a Jewish family facing the growing Nazi threat, must protect their five-year-old son Samuel, a violin prodigy, at all cost. The parents make the unimaginable decision to send Samuel away to England on the now famous Kindertransport.
A second story line centers on Selena Durán, a social worker involved in immigration work along the southern border of the United States. Long engaged to a traditionally-minded truck driver, Selena’s true passion is her work — helping families reunite after government-imposed separation.
Then there’s seven-year-old Anita Diaz, a Salvadoran refugee Selena is working with, who has been separated from her mother by U.S. immigration officials. Frightened, traumatized, and shuffled around, Anita is nevertheless convinced she will soon be reunited with her mother.
There are a few notable supportive characters as well:
- An wealthy attorney who discovers that immigration law is more fulfilling that getting guilty rich people off the hook.
- A former Latin American immigrant now settled in San Francisco, completely dedicated to the elderly music professor whose home she cleans.
- A disgraced police officer providing security for a organization clouded in mystery.
Though Allende jumps from story to story (a technique I admit I DON’T love), and not connecting them all until the very end, she does deal successfully with some BIG themes. She draws parallels between contemporary events that are widely accepted and similar ones in the past that are universally condemned. She makes human the plight of each refugee eager to enter the United States. And she makes a strong argument for the often unrecognized heroism of those people working behind the scenes on behalf of desperate people. Strongly recommended, particularly for making real the lives of immigrants.
More about the author, Isabel Allende.
You may be interested in my reviews of other books by Isabel Allende: