Ever since I read her 1982 debut novel “The House of Spirits” I have been a fan of Isabel Allende. She is fascinating: born in Peru and raised in Chile she didn’t start writing until she was 40 years old and has written over 20 books since that time.
Isabel is now 73 years old and her latest novel follows the life of a sassy older woman named Alma who currently resides at a free thinking old folks home called “the Lark House.” Here the 250 or so liberal free thinkers pretty much do whatever they please. Sign me up, the Lark House sounds like the kind of place I want live when I am ready.
The book follows Alma after she hires a young aide named Irina whose sole purpose is to help her to age gracefully. As they become close Alma begins to share the secrets of her juicy past. Slowly, we learn that Alma has had a lifelong lover of Japanese descent – no spoiler here it’s in the title – who has recently re-appeared in her life.
It is during this intimate sharing of secrets that Alma begins to form a new and honest perspective on her life. These perspectives range from funny to insightful. She laments the difficulties of getting old: “she needed to avoid the stairs and guess the meaning of a sentence she hadn’t truly heard” to thoughts and perspectives about why she chose a secret relationship when she could have married her Japanese lover- “a clandestine relationship has to be defended: it’s fragile and precious.”
This book is fun, flirty and a even a little bit far fetched at times. But like Isabel’s other works the prose reads like poetry and if you allow yourself to let go and be entertained by a 73 year grand dame you will definitely enjoy the book.