is a 2011 novel by Chilean author Isabel Allende. Written in diary form, it chronicles the life of Maya Vidal, whose family seeks refuge in Canada and the United States after the 1970s political upheaval in Chile that led to the installation of a dictatorship. The story takes place as a series of flashbacks that occasionally return to the present day, creating a mosaic of memories that tie together the difficulties of adolescence, displacement, immigration, and identity. Maya, born after her family has left Chile for the United States, enters (then escapes) the drug trade, returns to Chile, and eventually fashions a good life for herself. The novel affirms that disenfranchised and displaced individuals have dignity, and are deserving of families and places to call home.
The novel begins just as Maya’s grandmother, Nidia Vidal, flees Chile in the immediate aftermath of a military coup that installed a Chilean dictator. Grieving the recent loss of her husband, Felipe, Nidia and her son, Andres, journey to Toronto and settle, thanks to progressive Canadian policies on displaced persons. Nidia meets African-American astronomy professor Paul Ditson II, who is based in Berkeley, California. They fall and love and get married, moving their whole family to Berkeley.
The story shifts to the late 1980s. Andres, now an airline pilot, accidentally conceives a child with Marta Otter, a flight attendant from Denmark. Soon after she gives birth, Marta names the baby Maya and gives her to Andres’s parents. Andres gives them basic financial support for Maya, but the bohemian parents, Paul and Nidia, end up taking on the bulk of the job of rearing her. She calls them Nini and Popo and thinks of them as her real parents. In 2005, when Maya is fifteen, Popo tragically dies from a short battle with pancreatic cancer. Maya is devastated, and her mental health deteriorates from grief. Soothes her pain by abusing drugs and alcohol, she frequently misses school. When her problems worsen, Nini and Andres send her to a rehab program in Oregon. The program improves Maya’s mental and physical well-being; however, she eventually flees, moving to Las Vegas.
While Maya struggles for work and shelter, a drug dealer named Brandon Leeman approaches her. Brandon offers Maya work as a delivery girl for his drug service, sending her to a series of Vegas casinos with bags of drugs, which she trades for cash. Brandon works alongside his brother, Adam, who produces counterfeit money. Brandon arranges for the killing of two men and pays the assassins with the fake cash; the scheme backfires, and Brandon is killed instead. Maya, fearing that she is in danger, moves out onto the streets and becomes addicted to crack cocaine. After a cop named Officer Arana questions her, she makes her way to San Francisco and reunites with her father and grandmother.
Andres sends Maya back to rehab; this time, she actively pursues staying clean. Nini and her friend Mike O’Kelly destroy her remaining counterfeit cash and arrange for Maya to hide in Chile, on an archipelago called Chiloé. They arrange for her to work for Nini’s old friend, Manuel Arias. Maya butts heads with the elderly Manuel, but they eventually come to like each other. After she adjusts to the island, she falls in love with Daniel Goodrich, a tourist from America. Not fully returning her affection, Daniel returns to Seattle. Maya does some research on Manuel, who was imprisoned during Chile’s political coup. Using her knowledge, she helps him process some of his trauma and discovers that he is her biological grandfather.
Officer Arana visits Nini to try to get information on Maya’s whereabouts under the pretext of acting to protect her. He travels to Chiloé and asks Maya where the fake money was manufactured. He and Maya fight, and Arana falls off a cliff and dies, in front of two children. Maya survives with a severe concussion. She passes off Arana’s death as a tourist accident. That Christmas, Nini and Andres return to Chiloé for the first time since they fled the dictatorship. Maya finally feels at home with her family and begins to heal from the loss of Popo. Maya’s Notebook
’s symbolic return to Chile suggests the survival of family and national identity at the end of its characters’ long struggles.