Friday, May 25, 2007

Review: Saving The World

Saving The World by Julia Alvarez. Ugh. Let's start with what I know.

The book consists of two stories threaded together. One is the story of a modern day woman going through a midlife crisis. The second is that of a woman in the early 1800's traveling the world inoculating people with the smallpox vaccine.

The second story, based on a true event, is a wicked cool concept. As I've blogged before, the whole notion of using human carriers to get a vaccine across an ocean is a terrific medical hack.

This story also turns out to be the easier one for me to grasp. It's fairly obvious why it's in a book called Saving The World, and it has a fairly powerful lesson to tell.

It's the first story that still has me puzzled, even after 4 days of reflection. What the heck is up with this woman who admits she has it all, and yet is in a funk about it? And then, as if her circumstances need to be in sync with her mood, her life takes some downward turns.

I just don't get it. To make matters worse, the side stories are just as incomprehensible to me.

I feel like any day now it's all going to click and I'll exclaim: "That's what Alvarez was trying to tell me! She's a genius." But in the mean time, I'll have to let it continue to let the ideas cook.

I think the book is indeed well written. The connections between the two stories are fun discover, as some are more obvious than others. And the way that the narrative changes points of view on the fly is also intriguing.

Overall, I give this book a 7.8/10 for being a thoughtful read, with at least a half positive message. If I can't crack that first story though, I may be forced to downgrade my opinion.


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