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A Most-Anticipated Book of the Year: O, The Oprah Magazine * The New York Times * The Washington Post * Vogue * Bustle * BuzzFeed * Ms. Magazine * The Millions * The Huffington Post * PopSugar * The Lily * Goodreads * Library Journal * LitHub * Electric Literature

The first adult novel in almost fifteen years by the internationally bestselling author of In the Time of the Butterflies and How the García Girls Lost Their Accents

"A stunning work of art that reminds readers Alvarez is, and always has been, in a class of her own." --Elizabeth Acevedo, National Book Award-winning author of the New York Times bestseller The Poet X

Antonia Vega, the immigrant writer at the center of Afterlife , has had the rug pulled out from under her. She has just retired from the college where she taught English when her beloved husband, Sam, suddenly dies. And then more jolts: her bighearted but unstable sister disappears, and Antonia returns home one evening to find a pregnant, undocumented teenager on her doorstep. Antonia has always sought direction in the literature she loves--lines from her favorite authors play in her head like a soundtrack--but now she finds that the world demands more of her than words.

Afterlife is a compact, nimble, and sharply droll novel. Set in this political moment of tribalism and distrust, it asks: What do we owe those in crisis in our families, including--maybe especially--members of our human family? How do we live in a broken world without losing faith in one another or ourselves? And how do we stay true to those glorious souls we have lost?

Author Notes

Julia Alvarez was born in New York City on March 27, 1950 and was raised in the Dominican Republic. Before becoming a full-time writer, she traveled across the country with poetry-in-the-schools programs and then taught at the high school level and the college level. In 1991, she earned tenure at Middlebury College and published her first book How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent, which won the PEN Oakland/Jefferson Miles Award for excellence in 1991. Her other works include In the Time of the Butterflies, The Other Side of El Otro Lado, and Once upon a Quinceañera: Coming of Age in the USA.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Alvarez's poignant return to adult fiction (after the young adult Tia Lola series) raises powerful questions about the care people owe themselves and others. Antonia Vega is reeling from the sudden death of her husband, Sam, who suffered an aneurysm on the day they'd planned to celebrate her retirement. As an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, Antonia is determined to embrace American values of self-preservation and independence, and she keeps a running dialogue in her head with Sam about the U.S. and D.R.'s conflicting values ("We live in America, she reminds the disapproving Sam in her head, where you put your oxygen mask on first"). This outlook is challenged after she finds an undocumented and pregnant teenage girl from Mexico hiding in her garage, and when Antonia's charismatic but unstable older sister Izzy disappears. As Antonia weighs the needs of others and her own, memories of Sam's magnanimity and generosity of spirit guide her, along with sentiments from authors such as Tolstoy ("What is the right thing to do?") and Rilke ("You must change your life"). Alvarez blends light humor with deep empathy toward her characters, offering a convincing portrait of an older woman's self discovery. This will satisfy her fans and earn new ones. (Apr.)

Kirkus Review

One of the best chroniclers of sisterhood returns with a funny, moving novel of loss and love.This is the first novel in 15 years from Alvarez (How the Garca Girls Lost Their Accents, 1991, etc.), and she builds on one of her strengths, depicting the complex relationships among sisters. Her main character is Antonia Vega, who, as the story begins, is stunned with grief. A year before, she and her husband, Sam, were driving separately to a restaurant dinner near their Vermont home to celebrate her retirement when he suffered a fatal aneurysm. Bereft of a beloved spouse and done with a rewarding career as a college professor and novelist, she's adrift and "has withdrawn from every narrative, including the ones she makes up for sale." Then need comes knocking in the form of an undocumented Mexican worker at her neighbor's dairy farm. Antonia emigrated long ago from the Dominican Republic, and young Mario seeks her help (and translation skills) in reuniting with his fiancee, Estela, who is also undocumented and stranded in Colorado. Antonia is hesitant. Sam, a doctor who was widely beloved for his volunteer work and empathy, would have done all he could, she knows: "He was the bold one. She, the reluctant activist." In the meantime, Antonia sets off to celebrate her 66th birthday with her three sisters. The two younger ones, Tilly and Mona, are as contentious and loving as ever, Tilly a font of oddly apropos malapropisms such as "That bitch was like a wolf in cheap clothing!" But all of them are worried about their oldest sister, Izzy, a retired therapist who recently has been behaving erratically. When her phone goes dead and she fails to arrive for the party, the other sisters swing into action. Izzy's fate will take surprising turns, as will the relationship between Mario and Estela, as Antonia tries to figure out what she can do for all of them and for herself. Alvarez writes with knowing warmth about how well sisters know how to push on each other's bruises and how powerfully they can lift each other up.In this bighearted novel, family bonds heal a woman's grief. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Dominican American author Alvarez's many fans will be thrilled to see her return to adult fiction long after Saving the World (2006) to present a novel that can be read as an exploration of how the sisters in How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent (1991) might have turned out. Here Alvarez creates four Vega sisters, older women wrestling with the challenges of age. The main focus is on Antonia, a retired college professor and novelist who is finding it hard to face life after her husband's sudden death. In the tranquil Vermont college town in which she lives, Antonia's grieving process is upended when she finds Estela, a pregnant, undocumented teenager hiding in her garage, a situation that invites comparison to her own more benign immigration experience. On top of that, older sister Izzy goes missing, and her two other sisters impose on Antonia to help with the search. The sisters' dynamic relationships brim with a funny but genuine Latina exuberance flowing from deep-rooted love. As she grapples with the urge to turn her back on the needs of others and hunker down in her grief, Antonia's inner voice is engaging, troubled, and ultimately, hopeful. A charming novel of immigration, loss, and love.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: An exuberant publicity campaign will announce beloved Alvarez's return to adult fiction.--Sara Martinez Copyright 2020 Booklist

Library Journal Review

In this return to adult fiction by Alvarez (How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents), a retired English professor and writer is caught between her sisters' drama and the plight of a pregnant undocumented young women--all in the wake of her husband's death. Antonia Vega is still grieving for Sam a year after his fatal car accident, getting by with the help of aphorisms from her favorite poets. When eldest sister, Izzy, disappears during a manic episode, her Dominican sisterhood convenes, bringing along their usual baggage. Meanwhile, a documented worker from the neighboring farm seeks Antonia's help in finding a place for his pregnant girlfriend. Antonia navigates these tumultuous occurrences with Sam and what he would do as her guiding principle. In this life after his death, the protagonist realizes that the best way to memorialize her husband is to embody what she loved most about him. Alvarez's prose is magnetic as she delves into the intricacies of sisterhood, immigration, and grief, once again proving her mastery as a storyteller. This stirring novel reminds readers that actions (big and small) have a lasting impact--so they should always act with love. VERDICT An incisive book that will burrow itself into people's hearts and stay long after they've turned the last page. [See Prepub Alert, 10/7/19.]--Shelley M. Diaz, BookOps, New York P.L. & Brooklyn P.L.