Afterlife by Julia Alvarez
How do we cope with loss? What do we do with the broken pieces? These questions are just a taste of what newly widowed Antonia Vega faces after the passing of her husband in Afterlife, Julia Alvarez’ latest work of fiction. Alvarez is one of the most influential figures in Latin American literature, having published numerous books for children and adults. Her dedication to literary advocacy and educational outreach is an inspiration.
Having spent her career in academia and living a fairly privileged life, Afterlife is Antonia’s story of metamorphosis. The loss of her husband serves as a jolt to her self-identity, and Antonia is thrust into a world that she is uncomfortable in and unfamiliar with. Although a widow, Antonia is not alone. Her sisters provide support and distraction throughout the novel and there is another complex relationship that Antonia gets involved in (no spoilers) that affects Antonia deeply.
These relationships are Antonia’s litmus test for how involved a person should interact with the world around them. Should you help that stranger? Where is the line between self-preservation and attention to others?
Antonia understands these new experiences and human interactions through quotes from her favorite literary heroes or through memories of her husband. These are the pieces of her life that comfort her, the pieces she uses to feel whole, to feel like the world and people around her make some kind of sense.
Review by Joel
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