“Afterlife,” the first adult novel written by Julia Alvarez in almost fifteen years, is a deep, multi-layered book with several intertwining themes from immigration to grief and loss to family interactions and roles in Latina sisterhood. There is a real depth in both Alvarez’s exploration of these topics and her character’s subsequent findings.
The story revolves around Antonia, a recently widowed, retired university professor living in Vermont. Her neighbor owns a farm who employs mostly illegal immigrants from Latin America. She is dealing with the loss of her husband Sam when two new developments in her life threaten to unravel her entire life: a pregnant, female immigrant has taken up residence her garage, and her sister has gone missing.
Ms. Alvarez does a splendid job of balancing the mystery of her sister’s disappearance and the new “responsibilities” she cannot ignore as well as trying to navigate the unspoken “rules” in her family’s hierarchy between her three other sisters. As the conflicting demands that need her attention pull her in every direction, she is forced to make difficult decisions about what matters most.
Fans of other books written by Ms. Alvarez will surely enjoy her latest offering. There is much poetry sprinkled throughout the novel as well as other tidbits of classic literature. As a retired English teacher, the protagonist is constantly referring back to discussions and lessons from her decades of teaching experience as she tries to bring to life the lessons learned from literature. I recommend the book to all literary fiction lovers, people who enjoy poetry, as well as fans of classic literature, who I believe would also thoroughly enjoy Julia Alvarez’s newest novel, “Afterlife.”
I received this eBook free of charge from Algonquin Books via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I did not receive any fiscal compensation from either company for this review and the opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.