Isabel Allende evokes the magnificent landscapes of her country; a charming, idiosyncratic Chilean people with a violent history and an indomitable spirit, and the politics, religion, myth, and magic of her homeland that she carries with her even today.
The book circles around two life-changing moments. The assassination of her uncle Salvador Allende Gossens on September 11, 1973, sent her into exile and transformed her into a literary writer. And the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, on her adopted homeland, the United States, brought forth an overdue acknowledgment that Allende had indeed left home. My Invented Country, mimicking the workings of memory itself, ranges back and forth across that distance between past and present lives. It speaks compellingly to immigrants and to all of us who try to retain a coherent inner life in a world full of contradictions.
The freshest and most specific images in this book all come directly from Allende's life. Some of the loveliest writing is about her maternal grandfather, a ''formidable man'' who ''gave me the gift of discipline and love for language.'' Clearly this autocratic and idiosyncratic man had a large and lasting influence on Allende, and the picture of him that she creates in these pages is full-bodied and affecting. He was a man who ''never believed in germs, for the same reason he didn't believe in ghosts: he'd never seen one,'' and who admired the young Isabel's desire to be strong and independent but was unable to foster or even condone such unfeminine characteristics. — Peter Cameron