The Wind Knows My Name – by Isabel Allende – independent book review – Fiction

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.
Children arriving in London in 1939 on the Kindertransport.
Photo from Wikipedia

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.

Isabel Allende

More about the author, Isabel Allende.

You may be interested in my reviews of other books by Isabel Allende:


Island Beneath the Sea

A Long Petal to the Sea

The Japanese Lover

In the Midst of Winter


  1. No offense but… why did she include the Kindertransport part? It sounds to me very disconnected from the other story lines. This really turns me off to this book because it sounds like she added it as a type of “Holocaust Porn” addition, to widen her audience. That could just be me (I dislike using/abusing the Holocaust for fiction, particularly because I know several people who were actually ON the Kindertransport, as well has have both Holocaust survivors in my family, not to mention relatives who were murdered by the Nazis).


    1. If you read the book, you will see that Allende draws comparisons between the experience of some Jews in World War II and how some immigrants are treated at the United States southern border. Like Allende, I hope the comparisons make readers more attentive to the plight of immigrants. In addition, one character’s experience of the Kindertransport is key to understanding his life. Including the photo and link in my review are also my way of making sure readers never forget the Holocaust. My family background is similar to yours.

      Liked by 1 person

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