As of last night, I’m done with “The Sum of Our Days” by Isabel Allende and even though I really liked the glimpse of her life in California, I think she gave out too much information.
The book picks off from her memoirs in “Paula,” where she tells the story of her daughter’s death, and goes into her life in California with her husband Willie and the rest if the “tribe.” However, I agree with the book review from The Oregonian in that Allende reveals too much.
Readers are allowed to poke through just about everything inside, from minor family tiffs to episodes of adultery and sexual identification, with drug abuse, physical ailments, travel to exotic locales, aging bodies, grief over lost children, and financial prosperity or lack thereof in between.
I liked to see more about the life of one of my favorite writers. It made her more human to me. But it reached a point where I felt very sorry for Nico, her son, because Allende couldn’t leave him alone. She kept talking to his ex-wife, Celia, after she left him for a woman (yes, her daughter-in-law turns out to be gay); she found him a new wife after she saw he was lonely; and the most disturbing factor, was when she told him that they had been married in another life. This sounded way too Oedipal to me.
However, nothing was worse than the last chapter, “A Quite Place,” when it comes to disturbing.
Allende closes her memories with a conversation with her husband inside a jacuzzi. Yes, she was at a retreat with her husband in the desert and they were on a jacuzzi together (naked!) and they talk about what the future may hold for them. The literary image of Allende was shadowed for a brief moment by the image of an older woman in a jacuzzi with her husband.
But it wasn’t all bad and disturbing. Another review from Entertainment Weekly was a little bit more upbeat and held some true to it.
At the end of this funny, tender book you may find yourself wanting your own invitation to sit and laugh and scream at the author’s table
I too was feeling close to Allende by the end of the book. More so than with “Paula” where she was concentrating on her suffering. In this book, I find a more human Allende that reminds me of my own mother with her will to have all her “tribe” re-united and jumping obstacles to make everyone within her inner circle happy. This book even made me call my own meddling mother several times.