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Alvarez, Julia.

ISBN 10: 156512510X / ISBN 13: 9781565125100
Published by Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, (2006.) dj, 2006
From Bookfever, IOBA (Volk & Iiams) (Ione, CA, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

SIGNED hardcover first edition - First printing. A novel which goes back and forth between two centuries - from the fight against AIDS in the modern Dominican Republic to the 1803 smallpox expedition of Francisco Xavier Balmis. INSCRIBED on the title page "for Mary" with a drawing of a heart and dated in the year of publication. 368 pp. Very near fine in a like dustjacket. Bookseller Inventory # 64330

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Bibliographic Details


Publisher: Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, (2006.) dj

Publication Date: 2006

Binding: Hardcover

Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


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 him: the publisher is breathing down her neck. She promises to work hard and follow him a bit later.

The truth is that Alma is seriously sidetracked by a story she has stumbled across. It's the story of a much earlier medical do-gooder, Spaniard Francisco Xavier Balmis, who in 1803 undertook to vaccinate the populations of Spain's American colonies against smallpox. To do this, he required live "carriers" of the vaccine.

Of greater interest to Alma is Isabel Sendales y Gómez, director of La Casa de Expósitos, who was asked to select twenty-two orphan boys to be the vaccine carriers. She agreed— with the stipulation that she would accompany the boys on the proposed two-year voyage. Her strength and courage inspire Alma, who finds herself becoming obsessed with the details of Isabel's adventures.

This resplendent novel-within-a-novel spins the disparate tales of two remarkable women, both of whom are swept along by machismo. In depicting their confrontation of the great scourges of their respective eras, Alvarez exposes the conflict between altruism and ambition.


Julia Alvarez is the author of five works of fiction, among them In the Time of the Butterflies and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, books for children, essays, and poetry. Saving the World is an unfocused attempt to make a statement about the haves and the have-nots and the people who try to improve the lot of those who have never had a real chance in life: those people who try to save the world. Unfortunately, it does not bridge the chasm between authentic high-mindedness and sentimental twaddle.

There are two stories intertwined in the novel: one of Alma, a self-centered depressive author and the other of Isabel, a no-centered Spanish rectoress who, in 1803, with her 23 orphan boys, joins Dr. Balmis on a ship bound for the new world destined to save the world from smallpox. The boys are to be carriers; each of them vaccinated with cowpox and then, when the vesicles fill with fluid, it will be harvested to vaccinate others. This part is, basically, a true story.

Alma has a contract to write a book, gets stuck, and becomes enamored of Isabel's story instead. She starts to write, and her husband, Richard, is called away on a project to the Dominican Republic, Alma's native country, to establish a "green" zone. Another world-saving project in theory, it turns out not to be as advertised. Alma sends him off alone, telling him that she is going to work on the book--some book, anyway--and then wool-gathers about why. Isabel constantly asks herself if she has done the right thing by exposing the boys to the rigors of sea travel, the dangers of ailments other than smallpox, and will she ever have a husband and babies of her own? These two women are portrayed as having remarkably little self-knowledge, despite their concentration on taking their own emotional temperature hourly.

A red-herring sub-plot is that Alma's close neighbor and "good friend," whom she seldom sees until she finds out she's dying, has a crazy son who has a crazy wife. They come to visit as Richard is leaving. Their threats to Alma and to the world at large are described by the two loonies as "ethical terrorism." This nonsense gains Alma's sympathy and she ends up protecting and defending them, spouting poetic aphorisms as reasons. The other loose cannon in the tale is Tera, Alma's one-dimensional firebrand friend who is saving the world from everything you can mention, according to her own lights. She is tedious in her extremism, and especially annoying to Alma when Alma needs attention, which is all the time.

All manner of dreadful things take place in this truly messy book. Alma and Isabel cry a lot, everyone gets to act out and then we go around again. Unfortunately, this story trivializes the world-saving work of the Spanish Royal Philanthropic Expedition, which was an around-the-world voyage of the smallpox vaccine and really did prevent outbreaks in the New World. Now that is a fascinating story. --Valerie Ryan

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Store Description - the name used by Volk and Iiams, Booksellers- specializes in first editions of twentieth century literature, with an emphasis on women authors, African American, Native American and Latin American authors - plus mystery & detective fiction, science fiction & fantasy, poetry and children's & illustrated books. We try to offer many uncommon books, and have a large selection of first books, and books by authors who are less frequently collected. Of the approximately 50,000 volumes in stock, the majority are hardcover first editions, although we also stock vintage science fiction paperbacks as well as sf digests and pulps. We also have a large selection of books signed by the author and uncorrected proof copies. Less than 50% of our stock is catalogued, so please inquire if you are searching for specific titles. Selling books by mail order and on the internet since 1993. We have a large booth dedicated to books (called Books Upstairs) at the Antiques Upstairs Mall, 5 Main Street, Jackson, CA. (open every day from 10-5) The emphasis there is on Western Americana, children¿s books and inexpensive reading copies. In 1998 we relocated our main business from Sacramento to the Sierra foothills of Amador County, about 35 miles east of downtown Sacramento and between Ione & Sutter Creek. There, on 10 acres of rolling oak-covered hills, we built a ¿bookhouse¿ for our books. When we are there, we welcome visitors by appointment (call 209-274-6960 or, in the US only, toll free at 1-877-bookfev or contact us by email Our web page is Traditional bookseller grading used - fine is our highest grade (an "A"), very good is above average (a "B), good is average (a "C"). All significant flaws are described; dust jackets are protected by archival covers, and books are packed carefully for shipping. We welcome questions by email or phone.

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Terms of Sale: is a partnership between Christine Volk and Eugene Iiams, Booksellers. Our mailing address is PO Box 696, Ione CA 95640 USA. Our store is located at 5 Main Street, Jackson, CA 95642 USA. Email: Phone: 209-274-6960. We accept Mastercard, Visa AMEX, Discover, checks or Paypal, whichever is most convenient for customers. Please contact us if you have any questions, or want to confirm availability. All dustjackets are in archival mylar covers, and books are packed ...

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