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Saving the World (Shannon Ravenel Books)by Julia Alvarez
Synopses & Reviews
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.
ALVAREZ’S resplendent new novel takes us into the worlds of two women swept up in campaigns against the scourges of their day. Alma Huebner, a Latin American novelist transplanted to the United States, is writing another of her bestselling family sagas. Her husband works for a humanitarian organization dedicated to health and prosperity in developing countries. He wants her to go with him, but she demurs. She must finish her newest novel.
In truth, Alma is sidetracked by the story of a much earlier idealist, Francisco Xavier Balmis, who in 1803 undertook to vaccinate the populations of Spain’s American colonies against smallpox. To do this, he needed living “carriers” of the vaccine. Enter Isabel Sendales y Gómez, the rectoress of La Casa de Expositós. Isabel selects twenty-two orphan boys to be the carriers and joins them on the voyage. Her bravery inspires a very different novel from Alma.
A brilliant novel-within-a-novel, Saving the World pits ambition against altruism—and, in the process, tells the radiant stories of two courageous women.
Alma is set on writing another of her bestselling family sagas, but when she discovers the story of 22 orphan boys who were selected in 1803 to act as RcarriersS of the smallpox vaccine in an attempt to vaccinate Spain's American colonies, Alma's newest novel develops into something very different.
While Alma Huebert is researching a new novel, she finds her real story—and her salvation—in a little-known but staggering historical footnote: the Royal Expedition of the Vaccine. In 1803, Don Francisco Balmis embarked on a two-year sea voyage to rescue the New World from smallpox. Accompanying him were twenty-two orphan boys, acting as live carriers, and their guardian, Isabel Sendales y Gómez. As Alma digs deeper into Isabel's life, she finds her own power to commit an act as life-changing as Isabel's.
In Saving the World, Julia Alvarez, author of perennial bestsellers, including How the García Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies, takes us into the worlds of "two women living two centuries apart [who] each face 'a crisis of the soul' when their fates are tied to idealistic men" (Publishers Weekly).
About the Author
Julia Alvarez is the author of five books of fiction, including How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accentsand In the Time of the Butterflies, as well as a book of essays; five collections of poetry; and five books for children. She lives in Vermont, where she is a writer-in-residence at Middlebury College.
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