MY INVENTED COUNTRY, by Isabel Allende: A Topical Memoir

“If you live long enough to review the past, it’s obvious that all we do is walk in circles.” Isabel Allende, My Invented Country

Dear Reader,

If you’re accustomed to reading memoirs that progress in chronological order, you may at first find My Invented Country a little difficult, or annoying, to follow. Why? Because author Isabel Allende doesn’t write a straight line from one day of her life to the next; instead, she meanders, backtracks, digs holes, jumps puddles, climbs trees, climbs back down, and meanders more. Why? Because she’s written a topical memoir, a wandering memoir of sociological and international proportions. This means her transitions from place to place, or idea to idea, are determined by where her thoughts roam, and not hemmed in by time lines.

I love what Allende says about her wanderings as an exile versus

“Instead of making an effort to learn about the land that had so generously taken me in [Venezuela, where she had been exiled], and learn to love it, I was obsessed with going home to Chile. When I compare my experience as an exile with my current situation as an immigrant [U.S.], I can see how different my state of mind is. In the former instance, you are forced to leave, whether you’re escaping or expelled, and you feel like a victim who has lost half her life; in the latter, it’s your own decision, you are moving toward an adventure, master of your fate. The exile looks toward the past, licking his wounds, the immigrant looks toward the future, ready to take advantage of the opportunities within his reach.”

Because I read a lot of memoirs, I welcome Allende’s style—but you may not. So, I urge you to give My Invented Country a chance. Let go of your expectations, and let Allende’s writing take you where it will.


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