Saving the World
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Saving the World

3.31 of 5 stars 3.31  ·  rating details  ·  1,923 ratings  ·  329 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, 376 pages
Published April 27th 2007 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (first published January 1st 2006)
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Lee
Aug 21, 2007 Lee rated it 4 of 5 stars 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.
Rebecca
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
Hawley
Sep 21, 2007 Hawley rated it 4 of 5 stars 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
Jenny Maloney
I really loved the parallels that Alvarez created in this book:
Smallpox-AIDS
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...more
Jessica
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...more
Abigail
Aug 02, 2007 Abigail rated it 1 of 5 stars 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...more
Erin
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...more
Heather
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
Marvin
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
Benji
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...more
Cristina
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
Elsje
Dit is het derde boek van Alvarez dat ik las. Lang, lang geleden las ik 'In de tijd van de vlinders', later 'In de naam van Salomé' en nu dan 'Een betere wereld'.
Alvarez schrijft over sterke vrouwen, die het nodige meemaken in onder druk staande maatschappijen. Verder komt regelmatig het letterlijk leven tussen twee culturen in naar voren. Zo ook in dit boek.

Hier draait het om twee vrouwen. Ten eerste een schrijfster, Alma, die op jonge leeftijd de Dominicaanse Republiek ontvluchtte en nu, op 50...more
Sharon
I found this book frustrating and unsatisfying. While I understand the comparisons the author was trying to make, those comparisons were not strong enough to justify the "ping-ponging" of the reader between the two stories.

Alma's story, the best told of the two tales might have interested me if it had been told in isolation. (In fact, either story might have interested me in isolation.) But, all of my investment in the story line was lost when when suddenly jolted into the second plot. Apparent...more
Sharon
A fascinating book so far...alternating chapters of a present-day writer and her husband, with chapters of a book that she's writing about a Spanish scientist who sailed into The New World with a ship full of orphans and the rectoress to help stop the spread of smallpox.

Very interesting!

This one definitely grew on me, though I'm still not sure that I liked Alma, the protagonist of the story taking place in Vermont...

It was unusual and interesting to have a book that was two novels in one. I enjo...more
Katie
Alma knows she's fully reached mid-life crisis when she begins questioning the relevancy of her life. Sure, she's a beloved wife and published author, but something feels missing. Her book's deadline has passed, and she still has no book to show for it. While she loves her husband, she receives a disturbing call from an anonymous woman, stating that the woman had slept with Alma's husband and transmitted AIDS to him. In the midst of all of this, Alma begins learning about a woman, Isabel, who vo...more
Joy
I thought a lot of things about this book and I am not sure how to rate it star-wise. There are parts of the book that are beautifully and creatively written and I couldn't put the book down. Yet there are also parts that were tedious and not as interesting and I put the book down often.

The main character is Alma, a writer living in Vermont with her husband Richard. At age 49, almost 50, she seems to be having a bit of a mid-life crisis while she is unable to finish a novel she is writing that i...more
Phyllis
The latest in novels about the New World by the Dominican Republic woman -- now a professor in Vermont -- who burst into the landscape in 1991 with "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents" (made into a popular motion picture. She has written several novels since, and I'm going to read every one!
This one is a novel within a novel: a Vermont author of Dominican birth refuses to go to the land of her birth with her husband when he is assigned by his non-governmental organization to build a clini...more
Kristin
Jun 29, 2007 Kristin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: anyone
I absolutely loved this book. I was first introduced to Julia Alvarez through her beautiful and tragic book, In the Time of Butterflies which takes place in the Dominican Republic. After having been to that country twice, I was very interested in reading something by a Dominican author. Saving the World was no less impressive. The author weaves together two stories that take place centuries apart. The modern story centers on Alma Rodriguez, a Dominican author in Vermont who is struggling to writ...more
Yvonne Mendez
This book wasn't an easy read for me, but my Mom gave it to me, so I soldered on until the end because she liked it. What I didn't like: the pace of the book was very leisurely, but the path taken was that of depression and self-absorption to the point of obliviousness to the people surrounding one of the main characters, Alma, who sorta snaps out of it too late. Not sure what the author was going for in the ending since it was bleak, but I guess it's a bleak ending for a bleak story. The plot t...more
P.d.r. Lindsay
This is one of those books composed of several layers, like a torte. In present day America we have Alma, turning fifty, depressed and lost. We have Helen, Alma's elderly neighbour making her last fight against cancer. Back in 1803 in Spain we have Dona Isabel Sendales Y Gomez, the only survivor in her family when the smallpox epidemic occurred, and the rectoress of an orphanage. How are they connected? By the men in their lives, all of whom are trying to save the world.

Alma's husband, Richard...more
Karen
This was the book I read after The Last Town on Earth and I wasn't nearly as impressed with it. It was a story about two women--one from current time and the other centuries before--and it skipped back and forth from one story to the other. One story was about the discovery of smallpox vaccine and it's dissemination to nations around the world using a small group of orphan boys who were vaccinated serialy (is that a word?) as they crossed the ocean. This kept the vaccine fresh so that when they...more
Jackie
A historical fiction novel that tells the story of Don Francisco Balmis, the courageous Spainaid who embarked on a two year voyage across the world to rid the world of smallpox. He left Spain with 22 orphan boys who were live-carriers of the disease in order to vaccinate people in an attempt to rid the future populations of this deadly disease. Along with him,Isabel,an orphanage director accompanies and acts as a caregiver and 'mother' to these boys. Along the way, they were met with hostility a...more
Laura
A novel within a novel, with one story being way more compelling than the other. Alvarez makes Alma a sort of mirror of herself: a writer who wrote a story about Latin American women, which makes it onto school reading lists, who decides that she wants to write about something more. She becomes obsessed with the story of Isabel, an orphanage keeper, who travels with her orphans a Spanish doctor to the New World to help prevent the spread of smallpox. Alma's story, which involves her husband goin...more
Elvia
This is a book that has two stories in one. The first one is of Alma living in modern times as a novelist who can no longer continue writing a story she doesn't believe in. Instead she concentrates on the story of Isabel, a rectoress in charge of leading several orphan boys for the small pox vaccine in the Spanish provinces as commissioned by the Spanish king. Both are on a mission as Alma's husband works on setting up a clinic in the Dominican Republic. Isabel is after saving the world through...more
Pamela
I read this book for book group, and my opinion of it totally changed about 100 pages in. I was not that into the book at first... There are two storylines. I was totally intrigued by the story of how the small pox vaccine was carried from Spain to the Americas, but rather bored with the present-day story. Because of the way the book is written, I thought about just continuing by reading the story of Isabel (the vaccination part) and skipping the present-day story of Alma. I'm glad I gave the bo...more
Ray
I am a big Julia Alvarez fan, but this one was a bit harder to read.

It's structure is overly didactic: alternating narrators/stories split between two women. One is the author, who must deal with love and loss in Vermont. The other is her character, a fictionalized version of a real woman who helped bring a small pox vaccine to the new world.

Both narrative voices are interesting, but neither is really given enough attention. Instead, the overall plan seems to be to draw your attention toward the...more
Suzanne
In Saving the World, we have two parallel stories, each taking place centuries apart. In the first, novelist Alma Huebner struggles to replicate the success of her first novel. During the course of research, she comes across a true story in which the heroine will become a model for her own journey. In this second story, Isabel Sendales y Gomez, sets sail from Spain with 22 orphan boys, on a dangerous and daring expedition to vaccinate the settlers in the New World against smallpox.

In short, I en...more
Mrs. Reed
This one was my least favorite Alvarez, but it was still worth reading. I felt like the historical portions were unfocused, and the parts set in the present were predictable and a little dull. I think that perhaps the common link between the past and present (men driven to altruistic acts to the point of deserting their families and putting themselves in danger) was almost too obvious, but then also underdeveloped. I'm only being this critical because I know Alvarez is capable of a more fully im...more
Liz
Ambivalent about this book. It intercuts a Dominican writer married to a Vermonter working for an international aid organization with scenes from the story she is developing, based on an actual historical event, the use of Spanish orphan boys to transport smallpox vaccine across the ocean to the Americas in the early 1800's. The modern-day part of the novel is a hot mess, but the fictionalized historical story is quite interesting.
Miriam
As always, Julia Alvarez weaves a good story. I found the characters compelling and real, and I was involved in their lives. The book starts out slowly, though; I thought it was going to be a very slow, character-driven tale, and when halfway through, the action radically picked up, it took me by surprise. I guess I should have seen it coming, now that I think back on the beginning chapters, realizing some of the themes and a bit of subtle foretelling of events. I gave the book a 3 because of th...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
More about Julia álvarez...
In the Time of the Butterflies How the García Girls Lost Their Accents Yo! Before We Were Free In the Name of Salome

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