The latest novel from Julia Alvarez is a story of family and coping with loss.
Julia Alvarez writes wonderful novels about sisters, beginning with How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (1991), then In the Time of the Butterflies (1994), and now her latest Afterlife. Antonia Vega is a retired English professor whose family emigrated from the Dominican Republic when she was a child. She lives on a farm outside of a college town in Vermont. Her beloved husband, Sam, suffered a massive heart attack on the day of her retirement. The novel opens in the spring after Sam’s death. Antonia is trying to decide if she will go to Illinois to celebrate her birthday with her sisters, Mona, Tilly and Izzy. Mona claims that Izzy has bipolar illness. Izzy has withdrawn all of her money from her bank account, sold her house and is couch surfing at friends’ homes in Boston. Still deep in grief, Antonia struggles with her complicated devotion to her sisters and what she should do. She has also been drawn into helping the farm workers from Mexico on the farm next to hers. Alvarez paints vividly Antonia’s grief and her loss of control over her world. Readers living through life in the time of COVID-19 will relate.