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Saving the World

3.32  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,299 Ratings  ·  373 Reviews
Latina novelist Alma Huebner is suffering from writer's block and is years past the completion date for yet another of her bestselling family sagas. Her husband, Richard, works for a humanitarian organization dedicated to the health and prosperity of developing countries and wants her help on an extended AIDS assignment in the Dominican Republic. But Alma begs off joining ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published April 27th 2007 by A Shannon Ravenel Book (first published January 1st 2006)
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One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a MárquezLove in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcí­a MárquezThe House of the Spirits by Isabel AllendeLike Water for Chocolate by Laura EsquivelThe Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Latino/Latina Fiction
146th out of 537 books — 825 voters
Doctors in Hell by Janet E. MorrisI, the Sun by Janet E. MorrisThe Game of Kings by Dorothy DunnettWood, Talc and Mr. J by Chris   RoseAtonement by Ian McEwan
Best Historical Fiction (Literary)
93rd out of 98 books — 67 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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May 25, 2009 Rebecca rated it it was ok
This belongs that hit or miss category of novel that attempts to connect a contemporary story rooted in the modern woes of a writer/journalist with the subject of her historical research. The novel becomes the story of two women from vastly different circumstances and eras whose stories begin to merge. The great risk in writing a novel with distinct story lines is that one will be far more compelling than the other. Such is the case with Saving the World. The story involving an expedition of twe ...more
I actively decided to stop reading this book, over 3/4 of the way through. Enough was enough. And stopping a book once I've started it is a rare occurrence.

I was surprised myself--I loved Alvarez's "In the Time of the Butterflies", but this was nowhere near up to that standard. It was interesting, up to a point--it had to be, to get that far through it. But then, the present-day half of the story just got too ridiculous. I disliked the main character throughout (being what appeared to be a shal
Aug 21, 2007 Lee rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of either historical fiction and contemporary female authors
Two stories alternately told are separated by time but linked thematically. Excellent story (ies), beautifully written. I thought it "worked" overall and was fascinated by the true story of the Spanish Royal Philanthropic Expedition which I had never heard of until I read this book. Although some critics have disliked Alma, the contemporary protagonist, I thought Alvarez really captured the self absorption (and attendant consequences of this modern malaise) so rampant today.
Sep 21, 2007 Hawley rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: someone who's bored and likes to be told more than shown
I am almost done with this book and have discovered something. There are two female characters and each chapter alternates between the two. The challenge is that one, Alma, seems like a much more lively and realistic character - however, in THESE chapters, Julia Alvarez chooses to make very obvious statements to relate Alma's situation to that of the other character, Isabel. It's a bit like show-and-tell in kindergarten or something. It's just a bit over the top in trying to force teh connection ...more
Marissa Garcia-sanchez
Two "parallel" stories are being told. I wish the author had chosen just to write the historical novel. The story of how the smallpox vaccine was transported across the ocean was fascinating, especially because of the perspective it was told from. I found Isabel to be a captivating narrator and I couldn't put the book down when reading the chapters told from her perspective. The Alma chapters were dry and neither the narrator nor the story hooked me.
I would recommend readers just read the chapte
Ana Ovejero
Sep 18, 2015 Ana Ovejero rated it really liked it
quotes I like:

"There has to be a place left in modern life for a crisis of the soul, a dark night that doesn't have a chemical solution."

"people don't just belong to themselves, ..., they belong to the people who love them."

"...they keep the world running.Somebody's got to do it. Just like someone has to go to the edge and look and come back and tell about it. That was always her part, Alma thought. But what if what she has seen is not something she wants to broadcast? What is there is nothing b
Jenny Maloney
I really loved the parallels that Alvarez created in this book:
Alma (woman touched by idealistic man in today's world)-Isabel (woman touched by idealistic man in yesterday's world)
Richard (idealistic man today)-Francisco Balmis (idealistic man yesterday)

Basically Alma's husband is trying to develop a vaccine for AIDS in the Dominican Republic and Isabel is in charge of a group of orphans who are carrying the small pox vaccine to the New World. This story is about the casualties that
Apr 11, 2010 Jessica rated it liked it
I loved In the Time of the Butterflies, so when my brand-new library card and I came upon a Julia Alvarez book I'd never heard of, we decided to give it a try.

Well...In the Time of the Butterflies this book ain't. There's very little action, and it switches back and forth between its two stories without really doing a good enough job of unifying the two. We start out reading the story of Alma, a modern-day Dominican woman living in Vermont, trying and failing to finish the novel she's been promi
Aug 02, 2007 Abigail rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: people who can take this kind of emotional drivel seriously
Shelves: recentlyread
AWFUL. I can't believe I even picked this book back up after I motored through HP7. What a waste of time. Extremely redundant, which actually hurt my writerly soul.

Previously I had said:
I've only just begun this book, so it's hard to say how good it will end up being.

The novel follows Alma, a 49-year-old woman attempting to pull herself out of a depressive funk who is attempting to write another novel. However she keeps finding herself sidetracked with a the novel's side research--a sea voyage
Jan 21, 2016 Correen rated it liked it
I had a hard time connecting with this book, much of it seemed overwritten, wringing out every bit of emotion to the point of dragging the story. When she got near the end, the story held it's own and it is a wonderful story -- well worth reading. I liked her two threads of the story and she did an excellent job of mirroring the early story in the modern one. I thought that was the best part of the book.
Sep 15, 2007 Heather rated it it was ok
This book nearly received a 1-star rating so happy was I to be finally finished with it. It always seem that when a book flip-flops between 2 different story lines (in this book one is the present-day story of a depressed writer whose husband is off on an ecological mission and the other is the story of a nun in the 1800s who takes off on the only potential adventure of her lifetime to spread the small pox vaccination) you always want more of one and less of another... That feeling that when you ...more
Jul 31, 2009 Marvin rated it liked it
A Latina writer suffering depression & failure to complete a contracted novel stays behind in Vermont as her husband goes to the Dominican Republic, her home country, to manage an environmental project. The writer's interest shifts from the multigenerational Latina saga she's supposed to be writing to the story of a woman, a preceptress of an orphanage in Spain, who participates in an expedition in 1803-5 to carry a smallpox vaccination around the world. In both cases, the principal actors m ...more
Apr 23, 2015 Theresa rated it it was amazing
Listened to this as an audio book. Really enjoyed both Alma and Isabelle's stories!
Burgess (Burgie)
Jan 18, 2016 Burgess (Burgie) rated it it was amazing
Wonder if I would have enjoyed as much (or more) if I'd read instead of listened to it. Reminded me a little of Gilbert's The Signature of All Things.
Sep 18, 2014 Janet rated it did not like it
Had I been reading this book rather than listening to it on my commutes I would have quit. The protagonist, Alma,(her story awkwardly written in present tense) is suffering from writer's block and depression. She finds that one of her older, aging friends is dying from cancer, her husband is sent to her native land, the Dominican Republic, to develop an Aids vaccine under the guise of setting up a clinic for the natives. He is taken hostage. Meanwhile, instead of writing her overdue novel, Alma ...more
Hennessey Library
When I turned to the first page of Saving the World by Julia Alvarez and discovered it was written in present tense, I was very put-off. The old English teacher in me knew I couldn't read a longish book all in present tense, but I don't give up easily, and I'm glad I did not. Ms. Alvarez reeled me in early and kept me with her to the end.

I too have a story about an author writing a story buzzing around in my brain deflecting my energies from the final book of a trilogy with which I have grown
Jun 24, 2016 Briar rated it liked it
I liked this book, but it didn't really grab me. I was never at a point where I couldn't put it down. I read it fairly quickly, because it's a pretty easy read, and I wasn't really busy doing anything else. The historical parts were pretty interesting (though I have no idea if they're true, I haven't done any research into it yet), and the modern parts were interesting too.

I had some trouble relating to the main character (she's 49, I'm 25.. maybe that's the problem?), as she sort of wasn't int
Jun 11, 2016 Holly rated it liked it
In "Saving the World" Alvarez alternates two parallel stories: those of Alma Huebner, set in modern day, and Isabel Sendales y Gomez, a Spanish woman who sailed to the New World w/ twenty-odd orphans to vaccinate for small pox in 1803. Alma is a fiction writer who is struggling w/ depression/malaise as she works on her latest serial story for her publisher. She is fascinated with Isabel's story; avoiding work on her commissioned novel, she works instead on a historical fiction rendition of Isabe ...more
V. Fox
Mar 21, 2015 V. Fox rated it liked it
A story within a story -
I found the story of Isabel and Don Francisco transporting the small pox vaccine around the world intriguing. It helped me realize there are so many things we take for granted in our modern world. We don't realize and are unaware of the many people we owe gratitude to that lived in the past whose unselfish actions have created a better place for humanity to exist. It helps that I enjoy historical fiction.
While reading, I found myself often frustrated with novelist Alma Hu
Dec 30, 2015 Megan rated it really liked it
Fascinating story about a Spanish expedition to bring a small pox vaccine via live carriers (orphans) to Spanish colonies. It's weaved together with a current story about a writer struggling with a novel and her husband who goes to the Dominican Republic to manage a sustainable agriculture project.
**3.50 stars**
While I originally had to read this book for one of my classes, I actually enjoyed it! Its super thought-provoking, filled with complex characters and complex themes that one could spend hours discussing. I loved the story aspect of the novel, as it explores what place literature has in social activism and how it can influence the lives of its readers. The novel also focuses on the idea of "saving ." Can we save the world? other people? ourselves? what does that entail?

I feel like
This is one of those historical/present parallel stories. The theme of sickness is not one I would've thought you could write a novel over 300 pages about, but Alvarez does it well. Isabel is our historical protagonist, focused on a mission to save the world from smallpox by helping a visionary (aka crazy) man take the vaccine across the world in human carriers. Alma is our present protagonist, an author that is researching and writing Isabel's story. Her husband is trying to save the world from ...more
Jun 19, 2007 alicia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me the first hundred or so pages to get into the two stories within this one. But once I did I was "infected with questions" about what it means to save the world, to love and to let go. By the end I loved this book as much as Alvarez's others.
Ted L.
Apr 30, 2014 Ted L. rated it really liked it
An excellent novel by an excellent writer. This novel blends a historical novel about a multi year journey from Spain to the new world, the Philippines, and China carrying smallpox vaccine and one of the first major international efforts to vaccinate native people against the small pox virus which was spread by the post Colombian trade and immigrant migration with a real time novel about an author struggling to finish a novel amidst the chaos of her own life.

Julia Alvarez is a writer of Dominica
The Bookloft
Jan 21, 2016 The Bookloft rated it it was amazing
Bookseller: Ev

For weeks this Spring, I started and soon abandoned a dozen or more novels, seeking one that hold my interest beyond the first few pages, one of those rare gems that would cast its spell over all my waking hour, cause me to carry it with me everywhere in the hope of stealing a few minutes' reading time here and there in the course of a busy day. My search ended with Julia Alvarez's Saving the World. Its power and beauty lie not only in its lyrical prose but also in Alvarez'z deft
Jun 12, 2014 Leslie rated it liked it
I found myself having to push through this story, but at the same very interested in and connected to the characters. I loved the Balmis expedition story and was fascinated to learn that this expedition actually occurred. I didn't quite understand the connection between the two stories and simply read it as two separate pieces. I know Alma found inspiration in Isabel, but she seemed so different from Isabel's character that I couldn't connect the two. Overall, I enjoyed the story and looked forw ...more
Nov 07, 2015 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Lately, I am absolutely obsessed with everything Julia Alvarez has written, and this book is no exception. Alvarez offers two compelling narratives, alternating each chapter, one of which is set in the nineties in Vermont and the other set in the 1800's on a sea voyage from Spain to the colonies. With such disparate narratives, it's hard to believe the book works, but it does.

Amazingly, I found the everyday life of Alma, the protagonist in the more present-day narrative, to be more compelling t
Apr 10, 2016 Nancy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club, novels
Unlike some other books ("Sarah's Key" is a prime example) in which chapters alternate between two different stories with one story being much more interesting than the other, both the stories in "Saving the World" were compelling. I enjoyed the back-and-forth story-lines because they were related in themes and commented brilliantly on each other. The framing story has a main character very similar to Julia Alvarez: a woman author native to the Dominican Republic now living in the United States. ...more
Feb 16, 2010 Benji rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-morocco, 2010
Very similar to HENDERSON THE RAIN KING in that I completely was unable to judge where the plot might be heading. Recommended, worth reading, if only for that. But Julia Alvarez is capable and it's important

Before I review, I like to see what other people have said, their likes and dislikes with the book. Did I like Alma? Not particularly. Doesn't mean I didnt appreciate following her. I feel like its easy to point to the dual narratives being didactic, and maybe it was, and I found myself skim
Feb 01, 2013 Cristina rated it it was ok
Hmmm. Well, the book kept me going, but it became a bit ridiculous at some point. There are really two stories in the book and one of them is far more interesting than the other. I thought the historical research Alvarez did and presented in the book about the first smallpox vaccine was intriguing and amazing, but about 3/4 of the way through, it's as though she wanted to wrap up the book but had too much to tell still so she skipped a lot and lost some of the rapport the reader built with Isabe ...more
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Julia Álvarez was born in New York City. Her parents moved back to the Dominican Republic when Álvarez was 3 months old and she was raised there until she was 10, when the family moved back to NYC.

She is currently writer-in-residence at Middlebury College and the owner of a coffee farm named Alta Gracia, near Jarabacoa in the mountains of the Dominican Republic. The farm hosts a school to teach l
More about Julia Alvarez...

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