“Words are free, she used to say, and she appropriated them; they were all hers.”
That sentence from early in the novel, Eva Luna, by Isabel Allende captures the spirit of her protagonist. Eva Luna is a spinner of tales and the stories from growing up poor on the streets of an unnamed South American country (Peru comes to mind for me) to falling in love with men like Riad Halabi, the Turkish-born merchant with a heart of gold, to Humberto Naranjo, the streetwise kid who becomes a leader in the guerilla movement, and to Rolf Carle, a German immigrant photographer that captures the attempted revolution going on in the country, Eva gains plenty of material for her stories.
Allende creates a colorful life for Eva Luna, and I get the sense that she wrote this novel like she was in a passionate love affair. The words flow easily and the story did not feel excessive or bloated. It would be easy to dismiss a novel like this as an ode to the soap opera or telenovela. However, Eva Luna shows through stories about how people connect and is a universal language for humanity. Stories are the lifeblood for human experience and are just as important as food, water, and shelter.
It is always a pleasant sign that when you re-read a novel; you get the same emotional cues from the all places in the story where you are supposed too. You smile, laugh, gasp, and want the protagonist to get beyond the latest conflict in the story to a proper resolution.
Eva Luna was the first Isabel Allende I had ever read and still has remained my favorite. I have read The House of The Spirits and Of Love & Shadows. Allende has been definitely influenced by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but I have always thought her storytelling style was much more accessible than his. If you have never read an Allende novel, then I recommend Eva Luna as a marvelous place to start. This will be one of my favorite reads of 2020.