Read advance reader review of Afterlife by Julia Alvarez

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by Julia Alvarez

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez X
Afterlife by Julia Alvarez
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2020, 272 pages

    Apr 2021, 288 pages


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  • Janice P. (South Woodstock, VT)
    Life Itself
    At one point near the emotional climax of this profound, lyrical novel, Antonia, who has recently retired and has just lost her husband, ponders how often a milestone in her life has been marked by a major public tragedy. The publication of Afterlife (the first adult novel from Julia Alvarez in nearly fifteen years) amidst an unfolding pandemic is an eerie case of life imitating art—just as Antonia, a Vermonter of Dominican background, a writer and teacher of literature, appears to be based upon Alvarez herself. Though Alvarez is not a widow, and that is where her writer's art rises above any mere imitation of life. Antonia's groping to stir herself out of isolation, to reconnect with others and re-envision her sense of self and purpose, is stunningly accurate (to a twice-widowed reader) and all the more moving for its brevity, poetry and even humor. It is a rare case of an idiosyncratic, particular character deeply and generously representing all humanity, as Antonia wrestles with competing demands she would rather avoid, and that fundamental question: Who is the most important one?
  • Becky K.
    Sisterhood prevails
    A fierce and loving tribute to the enduring power of sisterhood and the healing influence the familial bond has throughout one's lifetime, despite -- and maybe because of – the carryforward of childhood quibbles and jealousies. As a recent widow, Antonia grapples with the afterlife of her debilitating grief and her reluctance to be drawn into the dramas surrounding one sister's emotional crisis and the dangers facing a pregnant teenager with nowhere else to go. She is haunted by a question she has pondered throughout her life: Who is the most important one? Alvarez's life-affirming answer: All of us.
  • Linda J. (Urbana, OH)
    Real Life
    I was immediately involved with the main character of this book. Antonia is my age, a retired teacher (like me), and has 3 sisters (I have 2.) She is recently widowed, living in Vermont next door to a man who has work for illegal immigrants.
    The writing is lyrical prose. I laughed at myself at the end of the book because I skipped over some of that writing to find out what trauma was happening.
    As in real life, there are situations that can be anticipated and worked with, yet, there are others that hit us in the solar plexus.
    The ending was a bit fast and unsettling to me, but that won't stop me from looking up Ms. Alvarez's earlier books.
  • Pam S. (MA)
    Life goes on after retirement and death of spouse
    I loved this novel which explores a year in the life of Antonia Vega, recently retired English professor, following the sudden death of her beloved husband. After months of grief, her life begins again when two events occur that bring her out of her solitary misery. Without giving too much away, the story involves immigrants new and old and family relations and drama and should appeal to anyone interested in these topics. The language is poetic, lyrical and insightful. I recommend this book to book clubs as the story is a "good read" and the issues raised will stimulate thoughtful discussion.
  • Wendy A. (Durham, NC)
    Living LIfe After
    Antonia struggles daily with the tragic death of her husband even nine months after his death. Not only has she lost her husband, but she has also retired from her job as a college professor, losing a second pillar of her identity. Her three sisters provide the third pillar, but as in all families support is often a double-edged sword. As a professor of literature, words are important to Antonia and rarely did she get the last word with her departed husband, Sam, nor with her sisters. As the challenges to Antonia's "life-after" her losses mount she is forced to undertake challenges that she never believed she could. Citing Tolstoy, Antonia contemplates her role in meeting these challenges by asking herself "When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? ". In a beautifully written novel, Julia Alvarez guides the reader through these questions with some of the best advice I have read in a very long time.
  • Karen B. (Crestwood, KY)
    Heartfelt meditation on loss and connection
    Beautifully written reflection on love and loss, on what happens when one veers from the narrow path and asks, "Well, let's see what love can do."
  • Milda S. (Warwick, NY)
    Afterlife, a novel
    As Antonia Vega begins a life after her retirement as an English teacher, she is overwhelmed by her husband's unexpected death. All she wants to do is grieve and withdraw into her shell.

    Life, however, has other plans for Antonia drawing her out of her comfort zone to face unexpected problems. Her humanity will not allow her to stay on the sidelines.

    Afterlife is a beautifully written novel that deals with death, family and immigration. It asks the question: How much do we owe others?
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