Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
Recommended by Margo Smart
Branch Manager, Fallbrook Branch
Daughter of Fortune is a fast and fascinating end-of-the-summer read. Set in the 1840s Gold Rush times of early California, Isabel Allende, a well-known Chilean author of “magic realism” paints an achingly realistic and sometimes sublime portrait of the time. Visit any mission in the area and I dare you to not imagine the characters that once lived here. The novel begins with a young Eliza, who flees her adoptive home in Chile to search for her lost, first love. So determined to find her love, she becomes a stowaway on a boat headed to San Francisco. Her lover, Joaquin Andieta is a “steal from the rich, give to the poor kind of guy” and is rumored to be the hero behind many of the most publicized escapades of the day.
Eliza and her healer friend, Tao Chi’en, travel up and down the California coast meeting many colorful characters such as Joe Bonecrusher (a cross-dressing madam of a traveling brothel), Babulu the Bad (a giant with a heart of gold), Tom No –Tribe and numerous gold miners who each have their own story to tell. Allende mixes Chinese, Chilean, Indigenous, and early American cultures to give us a fresh view (not told in history books) of the settling of the New World. Allende also explores with great humor and compassion how we each fashion our individual identity by our actions. Eliza is a “Daughter of Fortune” in the truest sense, seeking her fate and her place in the world against all odds.