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Saving the World

3.33  ·  Rating Details ·  2,346 Ratings  ·  380 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
151st out of 539 books — 833 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)
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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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Apr 23, 2015 Theresa rated it it was amazing
Listened to this as an audio book. Really enjoyed both Alma and Isabelle's stories!
Oct 19, 2016 TienvoorNegen rated it liked it
In general I dislike books who have two stories from two different timelines. I usually don't see the connection between the two, and so it breaks my focus.
In this book one of the storylines is about a writer. Omg really? Why are there so many writers writing about writers writing a book? (If I was writing this in Dutch I would now mention the Droste-effect)

Ok. That said, Alma's story was entertaining. But the reason I went to bed earlier than normal to read a few pages in this lovely gem was t
Vivian Herrero
This one didn't quite do it for me. I'm rounding down the 2.5 stars. I was excited with the premise of reading the alternating stories of Alma in the present and Isabel in the past but I don't think they got developed enough with things to keep my interest and the elements of each story didn't come together at any moment. I kept waiting for nothing. Dissatisfied.
Feb 11, 2011 Elsje rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2007
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
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
Sep 28, 2016 Angie rated it liked it
Enjoyed the characters and the Spanish language that was used throughout the book. The two stories were wonderful.
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
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
Aug 03, 2012 Katie rated it liked it
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
P.D.R. Lindsay
Jun 02, 2013 P.D.R. Lindsay rated it really liked it
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
May 25, 2013 Joy rated it liked it
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
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
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
Jan 05, 2009 Phyllis rated it really liked it
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
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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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