Since discovering her novels in high school, Isabel Allende has remained one of my favorite authors. Her personal life, is just as entertaining and dramatic as those of her fictional characters. The Sum of Our Days is her second memoir, detailing family events following the death of her daughter Paula, whom she wrote about in her first memoir, aptly titled Paula.
Allende never fails to be interesting and her family proves to be a colorful bunch of characters. Despite a myriad of problems (really, what family is problem free?) Allende presents a group of people who love each other fiercely and whom freely embrace bringing new friends into their fold. Their home in San Francisco is a warm place for anyone in need and it is impossible not to fall in love with their family. Allende writes about her family and friends in such a caring way, that I connected with each person.
Allende isn't shoving tips or life lessons down the readers throat, but in a subtle way, she gives a lot of great advice regarding marriage and relationships. The relationship advice extending not just to significant others, but includes children and friends. She has made mistakes and candidly reveals them in this memoir, forcing the reader to be introspective about their own relationships and mistakes. Allende's vulnerability makes her so accessible.
I finished this book, still a huge fan of her writing, but I also wished that I could be part of her family. You know that game where you pick five people that you would want to have as a dinner guest? Allende makes my list.
This book is a must for Allende fans, but would also be a great independent memoir read for someone who is completely unfamiliar with her novels. It stands on its own, although I would recommend reading Paula first, as there are many references to it and the two memoirs are really companion books.