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Saving the World

3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  2,112 ratings  ·  349 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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Community Reviews

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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
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
...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
Theresa
Listened to this as an audio book. Really enjoyed both Alma and Isabelle's stories!
Janet
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
...more
V. Fox
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
...more
alicia
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.
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
...more
Leslie
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
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
Aug 03, 2012 Katie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
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
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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 Alvarez...
In the Time of the Butterflies How the García Girls Lost Their Accents Before We Were Free Yo! In the Name of Salome

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