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, the narrator of Saving the World
, discovers a small historical footnote while doing research for a novel: In 1803, a Spanish doctor crossed the Atlantic with twenty-two orphan boysand#8212;live carriers of the smallpox vaccineand#8212;to inoculate the population of Spain's American colonies. Accompanying them on the two-year voyage was a mysterious woman, Isabel Sendales y Gandoacute;mez, the rectoress of the orphanage. Captivated by Isabe'and#8217;s courage, Alma decides to tell the grueling story of their journey.
Meanwhile, Alma's husband, working with an organization committed to eradicating AIDS in developing countries, travels to the Dominican Republic. When his life is threatened, it is Isabel's strength and resolve that arouse Alma's unexpectedly heroic action.
This novel within a novel presents the radiant stories of two women swept up in campaigns against the scourges of their day.
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).
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.
About the Author
Julia Alvarez left the Dominican Republic for the United States in 1960 at the age of ten. A novelist, poet, and essayist, she is the author of nineteen books, including How the García Girls Lost Their Accents,In the Time of the Butterflies—a National Endowment for the Arts Big Read Selection—Yo!, Something to Declare, In the Name of Salome, Saving theWorld, A Wedding in Haiti, and The Woman I Kept to Myself. Her work has garnered wide recognition, including the 2013 National Medal of Arts, a Latina Leader Award in Literature in 2007 from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, the 2002 Hispanic Heritage Award in Literature, the 2000 Woman of the Year by Latina magazine, and inclusion in the New York Public Library’s 1996 program “The Hand of the Poet: Original Manuscripts by 100 Masters, from John Donne to Julia Alvarez.” A writer-in-residence at Middlebury College, Alvarez and her husband, Bill Eichner, established Alta Gracia, an organic coffee farm–literacy arts center, in her homeland, the Dominican Republic.