Afterlife
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 AccentsAntonia 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?

Afterlife Details

TitleAfterlife
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseApr 7th, 2020
PublisherAlgonquin Books
ISBN-139781643750255
Rating
GenreFiction, Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Adult, Adult Fiction

Afterlife Review

  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    Not long ago I read and was so taken with In the Time of the Butterflies and I was anxious to get to Alvarezs other novels. I was given the opportunity to read her newest and I couldnt pass it up. On a personal note, this was not the best book I could have chosen to read at this time, but fortunately there is an abundance of love and kindness and hope on these pages. Also, the fabulous writing helped me focus on reading more than I have been able to this last month. Its an introspective story of Not long ago I read and was so taken with In the Time of the Butterflies and I was anxious to get to Alvarez’s other novels. I was given the opportunity to read her newest and I couldn’t pass it up. On a personal note, this was not the best book I could have chosen to read at this time, but fortunately there is an abundance of love and kindness and hope on these pages. Also, the fabulous writing helped me focus on reading more than I have been able to this last month. It’s an introspective story of a woman’s grief, having lost her husband and a sense of who she is without him. It’s a story covering so many things : the need to be needed, love of family, relationships with sisters especially, each with their idiosyncrasies who deeply love each other. It’s about the timely issue of immigration and about mental illness as well. It’s a beautifully written, sad but uplifting novel. Having read this makes me want to get to Alvarez’s earlier works for sure.I received an advanced copy of this book from Algonquin First Reader’s Club and Edelweiss.
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  • Paula
    January 1, 1970
    AFTERLIFE is a beautifully written short book about life after losing a loved one.Antonia Vega is a retired college professor living in rural Vermont who has recently lost her husband Sam. Her husband was a beloved doctor who cared for all whether born locally or the undocumented who have come to work on the farms. Its interesting that neighbors thought Sams affection for immigrants was because his wife is originally from the Dominican Republic. Not true, however, as this was just Sams nature. AFTERLIFE is a beautifully written short book about life after losing a loved one.Antonia Vega is a retired college professor living in rural Vermont who has recently lost her husband Sam. Her husband was a beloved doctor who cared for all whether born locally or the undocumented who have come to work on the farms. It’s interesting that neighbors thought Sam’s affection for immigrants was because his wife is originally from the Dominican Republic. Not true, however, as this was just Sam’s nature. It’s a nice play on how we as people assume so much about others even though knowing little.Julia Alvarez has interwoven nicely the relationship of four sisters, the strain of what mental illness can have on family when one is ill, and the challenges of all of a sudden being on your own. This is a book that asks a lot of questions. What do we owe ourselves and others? How do we remake ourselves after the death of a spouse?I’d like to thank Algonquin Books for sending me a hard copy of AFTERLIFE by Julia Alvarez. All opinions are my own.3.5 out of 5 starsPublication date - April 7, 2020
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  • Nilufer Ozmekik
    January 1, 1970
    Another beautiful, heartfelt, exhilarating, insightful reading shakes you to the core, makes you question so many things youve done with your life. The author tells us many thought-provoking issues starting from how to gather the pieces of your life after you lost your loved one, dynamics between sisterhood, their complex relationships, learning to put your needs first but also listening to peoples needs and extending your helpful hands, real and heartbreaking issues about undocumented Another beautiful, heartfelt, exhilarating, insightful reading shakes you to the core, makes you question so many things you’ve done with your life. The author tells us many thought-provoking issues starting from how to gather the pieces of your life after you lost your loved one, dynamics between sisterhood, their complex relationships, learning to put your needs first but also listening to people’s needs and extending your helpful hands, real and heartbreaking issues about undocumented immigrants, how to connect with the people who suffer from mental illness. Antonia doesn’t know what to do after sudden death of her beloved husband but before rethinking about her afterlife, she has to deal with her sister’s vanishing: Izzy who is fighting with her mental illness. And of course she encounters with a girl at her door steps, pregnant and undocumented teenager. A fast and riveting start of the story hooks you from the beginning and keeping your attention alive till the end. I’m so happy that grieving of Antonia was not depressing, bleak, disturbing and dark as I expected and I loved the idea that Antonia never wants to leave her husband and his memory behind, finding a creative way to keep his memory alive. Because we understand from the beginning, her husband has an important role to shape Antonia’s identity throughout years. He taught her important life lessons and opening herself to the goodness, reaching her hands to help the other people. He was an amazing man and I loved their sacred relationship. This was a memorable, gripping and meaningful and one of my fastest reading. I’m so happy that the author created this poignant, touchy story after 15 years later. And I hope she won’t stop writing in near future.Special thanks to NetGalley and Algonquin Books for sharing this incredible book’s ARC COPY with me in exchange my honest review. And I’m so happy to see a talented writer back and create new remarkable stories.bloginstagramfacebooktwitter
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    How many things can happen in a short period of time? After years teaching English to college students, Antonia has retired. She looks forward to spending time with her husband Sam, but he unexpectedly dies. Soon she will have even more to handle, when a young, pregnant, immigrant girl shows up and her sisters require her services in an intervention for their eldest sister.Grief, relationships between sisters and immigration. Common enough themes, but Alvarez makes the common something new and How many things can happen in a short period of time? After years teaching English to college students, Antonia has retired. She looks forward to spending time with her husband Sam, but he unexpectedly dies. Soon she will have even more to handle, when a young, pregnant, immigrant girl shows up and her sisters require her services in an intervention for their eldest sister.Grief, relationships between sisters and immigration. Common enough themes, but Alvarez makes the common something new and different. There is sadness, humor, and a woman who needs to find a new way forward. A natural storyteller, the book flows seamlessly. There are also wonderful quotes from books and poems, placed in appropriate places. I enjoyed every single line of this book, her word usage was terrific. Alvarez's first adult book in fifteen years is well worth reading.ARC from Algonquin books.
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  • Elyse Walters
    January 1, 1970
    This is a beautifully written book....rich-raw-real-outstanding gorgeous writing....with thought-provoking themes on love, loss, the bereaved, immigration, and the undocumented. Less than 300 pages. How does the imagination of the poor age? Perhaps from much practice over the course of a lifetime always having to imagine a better life it stays vigorous. At a recent reading at the college, a guest lecturer spoke about the origins of Black English. This rich folk language is what occurred when This is a beautifully written book....rich-raw-real-outstanding ‘gorgeous writing....with thought-provoking themes on love, loss, the bereaved, immigration, and the undocumented. Less than 300 pages. “How does the imagination of the poor age? Perhaps from much practice over the course of a lifetime— always having to imagine a better life— it stays vigorous. At a recent reading at the college, a guest lecturer spoke about the origins of Black English. This rich folk language is what occurred when African people with intensely musical and oral culture came up against the King James Bible and the sweet-talking American South, under conditions that denied them all outlets for their visions and gifts except the transformation of the English language into song”. “And what about those who cannot bear up under deprivations, Who are traumatized and silenced by hard times? If she ever gets back to writing, Antonio wants the stories she tells— to come from that deeper, hurting place. Perhaps grief will be good for her work?” “Broken English. The phrase once leveled at her and her sisters. She mended her broken pieces and ended up teaching Americans their own language, four decades total, three at the nearby college. What now, now that she has retired?” “We shall see, her mother used to say. Que sera, sera”. Mario and Jose were getting up for the first milking of the day. “And to think: this happens before dawn every morning, with or without her insomnia to note it”. “Wouldn’t it make a great book? She had mentioned it several times to Sam. Short chapters about the people who keep our world going? Invisible people we don’t even know about? “Invisible to whom? Sam had a way of asking questions that always stopped her short”. Julia Alvarez gives us an exquisite, powerful, story...sparkling with poetic vision. Complexities, and tragedies, “Afterlife”, is wise, finely observed, and a delicate balance of intimacy, and grief... taking us on a fascinating ethical journey in prose that shines from the love Antonia has for her husband who died. A short lonely and tender novel....uncovering difficult parts of life—making meaningful connections with those around Antonia.... after her retirement, and the loss of the man she loved more than life itself. “Personification is not merely a literary term, she used to tell her classes. Literature has to pull its weight in the real world or else it’s of no use to us”. Antonia was sensitive about her deficiency of her Dominican primary school education....her poor sense of geography and math skills. “A part of you dies with them, Antonio now knows, but wait a while, and they return, bringing you back with them. So, is this all his afterlife will amount to? Sam-inspired deeds from the people who loved him?” “Could that possibly be what the aftermath amounts to: an eternity of remembering‘s? Over to you, Sam. She talks to him in her head. You always liked being the one to know. But the after life is changed him. He no longer seems interested in having the last word”. As Beautiful as the best memories, as sad as the best songs, as hopeful as your best dreams.....I could feel every peak and valley of Julia’s emotional challenges on my skin, and in my gut. One of the years best books!Deserves to win every honor it receives!!!
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  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
    January 1, 1970
    I love love love this author and her tender stories. ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ Antonia Vega is an immigrant writer and recent retiree who loses her husband suddenly. As life often is, more stressful events pile on, and Antonia is more lost than ever. She often turns to books and writing for comfort, but even those arent helping her now.Afterlife is a tiny book full of heart and meaning. Antonia is searching for herself amongst her grief, and shes also seeking to honor her beloved who typically would be there to I love love love this author and her tender stories. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Antonia Vega is an immigrant writer and recent retiree who loses her husband suddenly. As life often is, more stressful events pile on, and Antonia is more lost than ever. She often turns to books and writing for comfort, but even those aren’t helping her now.Afterlife is a tiny book full of heart and meaning. Antonia is searching for herself amongst her grief, and she’s also seeking to honor her beloved who typically would be there to support her in times like this.Afterlife is a book about grief, sisters (Alvarez consistently pens this relationship with poignance), and immigration. It’s an every day story with characters who could be your neighbor. The writing is brilliant, and the messages like a warm hug. I am thankful for another gift from Julia Alvarez in the form of this beautiful story.I received a gifted copy from the publisher. All opinions are my own. Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader
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  • Victoria
    January 1, 1970
    A small book with a big heart and deep insights. I found this story to be a journey of self reflection and keen observations which grappled with big questions...what do we owe ourselves and others? And what is the right thing to do?How much power does Antonia really have? She has lost her husband; her sister is missing. And behind those untimely losses, the timely ones, the whole flank of buffering elders, parents, tias, tios, who have died in the natural progression of things, but still, A small book with a big heart and deep insights. I found this story to be a journey of self reflection and keen observations which grappled with big questions...what do we owe ourselves and others? And what is the right thing to do?How much power does Antonia really have? She has lost her husband; her sister is missing. And behind those untimely losses, the timely ones, the whole flank of buffering elders, parents, tias, tios, who have died in the natural progression of things, but still, natural or not, they leave behind holes in the heart, places of leakage where Antonia feels the depletion of spirit, the slow bleed of chronic grieving.The writing is wonderfully descriptive and, as with her other books, it is the strongest and most incisive when it explores the bonds of sisters, the push and pull of family, and where I found it to be the most immersive. Perhaps because I’m also Hispanic and a sister, I found many of the scenes relatable and perfectly, sometimes humorously, rendered.Her sisters are doing what they always do when they depart a scene, parsing the meat off its bones, analyzing, judging, exclaiming over the different personalities, a kind of sisterhood digestive system.But it wasn’t that she didn’t feel as much as they did, but that she doled it out in limited portion. Of course, any such divergence from the culture of the sisterhood was considered a betrayal.This is a complex and moving story of love and loss which is ultimately life affirming. It is also an elegy to how we move through and grow from grief and emerge stronger from the broken bits. I loved the writing, though not as enamored when it veered into the political, but overall I was completely engulfed in its portrayal of a woman struggling with what comes next. Highly recommended.I won this in a Goodreads Giveaway and what a gift it was!
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  • *TUDOR^QUEEN*
    January 1, 1970
    The main character in this book is Antonia (Vega) Sawyer, one of four sisters who hailed from the Dominican Republic. She is now in the senior years of her life, having retired just the year before as a teacher. She is trying to grasp her relatively new reality of both being retired and becoming a widow almost virtually at the same time. You see, her husband Sam died while in transit to take Antonia to her celebratory retirement dinner last year. He was a physician, well known for being very The main character in this book is Antonia (Vega) Sawyer, one of four sisters who hailed from the Dominican Republic. She is now in the senior years of her life, having retired just the year before as a teacher. She is trying to grasp her relatively new reality of both being retired and becoming a widow almost virtually at the same time. You see, her husband Sam died while in transit to take Antonia to her celebratory retirement dinner last year. He was a physician, well known for being very kind, and passionate about helping people. As Antonia navigates her new solitary life, she often "hears" her husband's voice telling her what he would think or do in certain situations, and this can often influence how she will decide to handle them. It's a learning curve how this "afterlife" flows around and through us. There are two areas of conflict weaving throughout this story. One involves Mexican illegal aliens who are seeking help from Antonia. She is well versed in shepherding resources in the area due to her late husband's interest in this plight, but is uncertain how far she should stick her neck out. Still, she has internalized her husband's voice and spirit which plays into her decision making.The other area of concern is with her sister Felicia Isabel Vega aka "Izzy". They've almost felt like twins throughout life because they were born less than a year apart, and they are the oldest. However, Izzy is wont to be flamboyant and impetuous, and her sisters have always feared she has bipolar disorder. They have been trying an intervention for years to get Izzy professional help to no avail, but things are hitting a crisis point...and just when the sisters are trying to get together to celebrate Antonia's 66th birthday.The writing was good, but I disliked the passages that were somewhat poetic-and frankly went a bit over my head. It was like word salad...and I wasn't going to stop and do the work to analyze its higher meaning. When I read I like it to be a pleasant, restful exercise and for it to flow effortlessly; nice and easy. I also wasn't that drawn into the sister interaction track of the story. Antonia's character was much more intriguing when she was acting on her own rather than intertwined among her three other sisters.Thank you to Algonquin Books who provided an advance reader copy via Edelweiss.
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  • Esil
    January 1, 1970
    A high 4 stars!Afterlife is a beautifully written novel about grief and how life carries on. Antonia is recently widowed, living by herself in a small town in Vermont. She has three sisters, who live in other parts of the USA. Antonia's instinct is to retreat into her grief, but the outside world intrudes. Her oldest sister, Izzie, who is erratic and impulsive, disappears. At the same time, Antonia finds herself charged with the well-being of a pregnant underage illegal Mexican immigrant. A high 4 stars!Afterlife is a beautifully written novel about grief and how life carries on. Antonia is recently widowed, living by herself in a small town in Vermont. She has three sisters, who live in other parts of the USA. Antonia's instinct is to retreat into her grief, but the outside world intrudes. Her oldest sister, Izzie, who is erratic and impulsive, disappears. At the same time, Antonia finds herself charged with the well-being of a pregnant underage illegal Mexican immigrant. Alvarez does a great job of portraying Antonia's inner voice and turmoil -- Antonia struggles between wanting to isolate herself and feeling a sense to duty to her sisters and to the plight of her young charge. This is not a long novel. The beginning and end are very strong, but it felt a bit slack in the middle, which is why I couldn't bring myself to give it 5 stars. Thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
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  • Cheri
    January 1, 1970
    A story that revolves around family, the bond of sisters, and the pain of loss, along with the stories, and struggles of those who have immigrated to America both legally and illegally, as well as those people who seem to view real Americans as an exclusive club. Love and loss both factor heavily in this story. Born in the Dominican Republic, Antoinette and her sisters emigrated when they were very young, but many years have passed, and Antoinette, recently retired and widowed, will soon A story that revolves around family, the bond of sisters, and the pain of loss, along with the stories, and struggles of those who have immigrated to America – both legally and illegally, as well as those people who seem to view ‘real’ Americans as an exclusive club. Love and loss both factor heavily in this story. Born in the Dominican Republic, Antoinette and her sisters emigrated when they were very young, but many years have passed, and Antoinette, recently retired and widowed, will soon observe her 66th birthday. ’We all have to make peace with that longing, learn to live with the holes in our hearts.’Among those seeking Antoinette’s help in this story is Mario, a young, undocumented Hispanic man who works at a dairy farm nearby. He is trying to get Estela, his girlfriend, from Colorado to Vermont, where they live, but the coyotes are refusing to release her, and so he turns to Antonia for help.And if that were not adding enough stress to her life, she also has to juggle a get-together with her three sisters to celebrate her birthday, which adds some laughs, but along with that is even more stress. Families, the bonds that tie us together can sometimes feel limiting, can make some feel less-than, their feelings dismissed as if the person and their feelings are irrelevant. Families are front and center of this story, the families we are born into, as well as the families we create, whether through marriage, adoptions, or simply the act of caring and sharing. Many thanks for the ARC provided by Algonquin First Reader’s Club
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  • Elle
    January 1, 1970
    What a story to lose yourself in. I have been meaning to read Julia Alvarez for some time, In the Time of the Butterflies, How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, etc., but I just kept putting it off for some reason. Afterlife has propelled her works back to the front of the TBR pile. So many emotions and deep reflections were packed into this petite novel, I can only imagine what she does with even more pages.The best thing about this book is the dynamic between Antonia and her sisters. I so What a story to lose yourself in. I have been meaning to read Julia Alvarez for some time, In the Time of the Butterflies, How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, etc., but I just kept putting it off for some reason. Afterlife has propelled her works back to the front of the TBR pile. So many emotions and deep reflections were packed into this petite novel, I can only imagine what she does with even more pages.The best thing about this book is the dynamic between Antonia and her sisters. I so rarely get to read things where a woman in her sixties is the main character, and this book has four of them! Alvarez writes Izzy, Tilly, Mona and Antonia with such life and candor that I can’t imagine that they aren’t based on real people. When I read the description I was drawn in by the mention of “a pregnant, undocumented teenager on her doorstep”, but I absolutely stayed for the interfamilial conflict. At the heart of this story is grief and loss, relayed with such raw compassion that—yeah, I’ll admit it—I cried a bit. We watch Antonia struggle with loss long after the sympathy wave has dissipated. She pinballs from one crisis to another in order to distract herself from the empty space, both literal and figurative, that now inhabits her life. She’s making decisions and responding to situations differently than she had before, and is left wondering which choices are her own. (I’ve recently discovered one of my most read sub-genres is ‘Death’, so I guess this is right up my own morbid alley)The question that Antonia, Alvarez and the reader keeps being drawn back to is a philosophical one: what do we owe one another? And also to an extent, what do we owe ourselves? There’s no easy answers provided here. None as binary as ‘nothing!’ or ‘everything!’ The answer lies probably somewhere in the middle, in the excruciatingly non-specific “something”. Yes, we owe each other something. Otherwise, what’s the point of it all?*Thanks to Algonquin Books & Netgalley for an advance copy!
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    4.5Antonia lives alone in Vermont. She is a 66 yr old recent widow, she is a retired English professor and writer who had came to the United States from the Dominican Republic as a child. Her husband Sam had been a kind and caring American doctor in the community. Antonia also is part of a hilarious sisterhood... she has three sisters scattered about the States, all in their 60s also.. the oldest at present time having some mental health issues.Also, living next door to Antonia is a farmer who 4.5Antonia lives alone in Vermont. She is a 66 yr old recent widow, she is a retired English professor and writer who had came to the United States from the Dominican Republic as a child. Her husband Sam had been a kind and caring American doctor in the community. Antonia also is part of a hilarious sisterhood... she has three sisters scattered about the States, all in their 60’s also.. the oldest at present time having some mental health issues.Also, living next door to Antonia is a farmer who employs immigrants that are kind of hiding out.. one who has brought his pregnant girlfriend over from Mexico using a Coyote.So... Antonia is facing living alone.. in isolation, with all the challenges of her new widowed state, and the immigrants get her involved in their dilemma.. and those sisters of hers need her to help with the crazy sister.. This was just so humorous in places where the sisters interacted. I really enjoyed it!
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  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    "Sometimes it's okay if the only thing you did today was breathe." (Yumi Sakugawa)Julia Alvarez wraps us up in the swaddling comfort of refocusing, redirecting, and releasing the weight of life's uncontrollable circumstances. Day by day, and especially as we find ourselves in the grip of a monumental hand-off of a pandemic, not a soul on Earth can feel and react to tragedies and uncertainties in exactly the same way. It is all personal. It is all played from the internal notes of music that only "Sometimes it's okay if the only thing you did today was breathe." (Yumi Sakugawa)Julia Alvarez wraps us up in the swaddling comfort of refocusing, redirecting, and releasing the weight of life's uncontrollable circumstances. Day by day, and especially as we find ourselves in the grip of a monumental hand-off of a pandemic, not a soul on Earth can feel and react to tragedies and uncertainties in exactly the same way. It is all personal. It is all played from the internal notes of music that only you can hear.Antonia Vega is searching for an elusive identity. She loved the fit and the timbre of her old life. Antonia knew its familiarity with its everyday actions and reactions. Being a widow after the recent death of her physician husband, Sam, leaves her hollow inside. Her daily routine of being an English professor has come to an end through retirement. The ebb and flow no longer lingers in her bones.But all of that is about to change for Antonia through the simple act of leaves in her gutter. Perhaps there was more significance in a handful of leaves......blocking the flow of what is yet to come.Antonia's neighbor sends over one of his farm hands, Mario, with ladder in hand to clean her gutters. Antonia listens intently as Mario tells her of his girlfriend, Estela, who will be arriving by bus from Colorado. He asks for some assistance from Antonia to get her safely here in Vermont. Antonia takes a step forward into something that she never bargained for. But dabbling in the needs of humanity may just open a section of her heart that's been closed for business.They say that lightning doesn't strike twice in the same spot. Antonia will tell you otherwise. She's received a call that one of her sisters is missing. Izzy was the one who had lapses in the straight and narrow and was off her meds more than she was on. She took to the road while hauling a trailer behind her. No one knows her whereabouts.Julia Alvarez does a remarkable job of creating characters who reflect the pains and the triumphs of life. She seems to have a finger on the pulse of friendship, sisterhood, family ties, grief, and most of all the constant quest to love and to be loved. Afterlife is filled with human responses to the unexpected through unleashed emotions and even bits of humor. It's a quick read, but one to savor in the hands of the talented Julia Alvarez.I received a copy of Afterlife through Goodreads Giveaways. My thanks to Algonquin Books and to Julia Alvarez for the opportunity.
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  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    January 1, 1970
    Antonia is a retired literature professor whose husband has just died and she is left to make sense of her life. She has three sisters who are all very close but are a source of drama, and then she gets wrapped up in the lives of some of the undocumented workers living nearby. The very beginning and end are written more poetically but the majority of the middle is more straightforward.I can't believe I haven't read this author before but I get the sense that she tends to write longish family Antonia is a retired literature professor whose husband has just died and she is left to make sense of her life. She has three sisters who are all very close but are a source of drama, and then she gets wrapped up in the lives of some of the undocumented workers living nearby. The very beginning and end are written more poetically but the majority of the middle is more straightforward.I can't believe I haven't read this author before but I get the sense that she tends to write longish family sagas. Because this spans so little time you only get the end of the story for a few characters. I think this aligns with the author's desire to write about this stage of life and it made me think a lot of my Mom who just this week moved into a home on her own, after living in the house I grew up in for almost 40 years, where my Dad passed away a few years ago. It's easy for your focus to become other people but then who are you? Very thought provoking for sure.I had a copy from the publisher via in Netgalley and it came out April 7.
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  • Jeanette (Again)
    January 1, 1970
    It's publication day! This book is now available.3.5 starsWe women often tend to put other people's needs above our own. Even when we are facing crucial issues in our lives, we will set those issues aside if we think someone else's problems are more pressing. This is exactly what Antonia Vega does in Afterlife. Less than a year ago, her husband Sam died suddenly, and the pain of loss is still raw. She keeps telling herself she is going to make herself number one, but she gets sucked into other It's publication day! This book is now available.3.5 starsWe women often tend to put other people's needs above our own. Even when we are facing crucial issues in our lives, we will set those issues aside if we think someone else's problems are more pressing. This is exactly what Antonia Vega does in Afterlife. Less than a year ago, her husband Sam died suddenly, and the pain of loss is still raw. She keeps telling herself she is going to make herself number one, but she gets sucked into other people's drama and puts her own healing process on hold. Antonia has a sister with some mental health issues, and this sister goes missing. While she and her two other sisters are dealing with this crisis, Antonia is also sort of forced into a situation where she has to help some teenage undocumented workers, putting her at risk with law enforcement. Only when these two incidents have been resolved does Antonia finally start in earnest to do the work of healing herself and finding a new life as a widow. My favorite character was the one who's not there, Antonia's husband Sam. She knows he was a better person than she is. He was more generous, less judgmental, more willing to help others without hesitation. He lived by a saying his mother used when someone had a problem: "Let's see what love can do." Whenever Antonia is feeling small-minded, or petty, or selfish, she thinks of what Sam would have done in the same situation and she acts accordingly. Her hope is to give Sam an "afterlife" by keeping the best parts of him alive in herself. I would have liked a little more depth, more exploration of Antonia's grieving. But Alvarez keeps it fairly light, given the subject matter. It's a slight little novel with very readable prose. I finished it in less than 24 hours. It's written in the present tense and has no quotation marks. Normally this would bother me, but in this case the style was so straightforward that it wasn't a problem.
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  • Anna Luce
    January 1, 1970
    ★★★✰✰ 3 starsAfterlife is a slim novel that covers many topical and important issues, like mental health, in a not always satisfactory way. Alvarez's style was at times a detriment to her story. While I could have moved past the lack of quotations, I had a harder time buying into the recursive narration. I sort of understood what Alvarez was going for, trying to render Antonia Vega's inner monologue in what seemed to be a slightly less sporadic take on stream-of-consciousness, but I can't say ★★★✰✰ 3 starsAfterlife is a slim novel that covers many topical and important issues, like mental health, in a not always satisfactory way. Alvarez's style was at times a detriment to her story. While I could have moved past the lack of quotations, I had a harder time buying into the recursive narration. I sort of understood what Alvarez was going for, trying to render Antonia Vega's inner monologue in what seemed to be a slightly less sporadic take on stream-of-consciousness, but I can't say that it worked (for me). Antonia's observations, reflections, and various thoughts often seemed far too contrived. For one, she was perpetually baffled: each interaction she has with another person has her wondering why certain customs exists, why society expects us to behave a certain way or why we adhere to certain etiquettes. At times it seemed that she had lived under a rock for the entirety of her life, when in actuality she was a teacher and therefore must have accumulated some life experiences.While I appreciated that she wasn't portrayed as inherently selfless, I wish we could have seen her in a more positive light. Her relationship with her sisters and husband seemed to reinforce this image of her interacting with them not because she wanted to or because she cared for them but because it was expected of her. Her two younger sisters merged into one blurry character, while her older sister's personality was entirely reduced to the being the 'problematic' one. Alvarez presents us with a rather simplistic take of mental disorders and the sister who is possibly bipolar was a mere plot device that would enable Antonia to embark on her 'new life'.The book does pose some thought-provoking questions, especially regarding what people owe to each themselves and each other, but stylistically it just wasn't for me. I hope other readers will be able to connected with Alvarez's story and her characters more than I was.Read more reviews on my blog / / / View all my reviews on Goodreads
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  • Kathleen
    January 1, 1970
    Dominican American Alvarez paints an endearing picture of Antonia Vega. She is a recent widow still grieving for her dear Sam. She is in the midst of transitioning from teaching English to retirement and old age. She immigrated to Vermont from the Dominican Republic at a very young age and sympathizes with the undocumented Mexican workers her neighbor hires to help with his dairy farm.Just when she was settling into her solitary life, her life gets complicated. Mario, one of her neighbors Dominican American Alvarez paints an endearing picture of Antonia Vega. She is a recent widow still grieving for her dear Sam. She is in the midst of transitioning from teaching English to retirement and old age. She immigrated to Vermont from the Dominican Republic at a very young age and sympathizes with the undocumented Mexican workers her neighbor hires to help with his dairy farm.Just when she was settling into her solitary life, her life gets complicated. Mario, one of her neighbors’ undocumented workers, needs help getting his girlfriend from the border to Vermont. Her older sister seems to be in a manic phase of a bipolar disorder that requires the attention of herself and her two other sisters. How involved does she want to get helping Mario? And what can she do to help her sister? She finds answers in her rich knowledge of literature and the memories of her compassionate husband. Enjoy.
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  • Kasa Cotugno
    January 1, 1970
    Right up to the current minute, this lovely book contains many hot button issues without being preachy. Antonia, the central character who has been dealt a double blow, triple or quadruple if you count outside influences, had immigrated from the Dominican Republic. Her husband, who dies suddenly on the first page, was the town optometrist and was regarded as something of a local saint. They live in a small Vermont town where she has just retired from her position as a professor of English Lit at Right up to the current minute, this lovely book contains many hot button issues without being preachy. Antonia, the central character who has been dealt a double blow, triple or quadruple if you count outside influences, had immigrated from the Dominican Republic. Her husband, who dies suddenly on the first page, was the town optometrist and was regarded as something of a local saint. They live in a small Vermont town where she has just retired from her position as a professor of English Lit at a local college. But life intervenes and won't allow her to wallow in her grief, pulling her in several directions that as mentioned before, addresses the current immigration crisis, sisterly bonding, bi-polar illness, and answers the question of whether an up-to-date sticker on your car indicating you've donated to the policemen's guild will save you from getting a ticket. Gracefully written and incorporating quite a bit of humor, highly recommended.
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  • DeAnn
    January 1, 1970
    4 strong character starsThis tale chronicles Antonia Vega and her journey to grieve her husband and find her new place in the world. Antonia, with Dominican Republic roots, has just retired as an English professor when her husband suddenly dies. Set in Vermont, this one also delves into the immigrant community, those working in the dairy business especially, and the delicate balance this poses. Antonia is frequently pulled into volunteering and helping translate for this community.Antonia is 4 strong character starsThis tale chronicles Antonia Vega and her journey to grieve her husband and find her new place in the world. Antonia, with Dominican Republic roots, has just retired as an English professor when her husband suddenly dies. Set in Vermont, this one also delves into the immigrant community, those working in the dairy business especially, and the delicate balance this poses. Antonia is frequently pulled into volunteering and helping translate for this community.Antonia is also one of four sisters and they have fierce ties to each other. They take turns checking up on Antonia, making sure she is coping. When another sister has a crisis, they band together to help her as well. I really enjoyed the rich character of Antonia and I hoped that she would find happiness.This one is a quick read with deep and complex themes. I found the writing to be excellent and this one will stay with me. The earlier books by Julia Alvarez sound so familiar, but maybe I just meant to read them, but haven’t yet done so. This one certainly inspires me to pick those up.Thank you to Edelweiss, Julia Alvarez and Algonquin Books for an early copy of this one to read in return for an honest review.
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  • Toni
    January 1, 1970
    A beautifully-written, deep, touching story of Antonia Vega, a college professor and writer, mourning and grieving her husband. Antonia is trying to make sense of the world without her kind and selfless Sam and re-discover who she is and how to continue living in this after-life.This short, but very powerful novel will make you consider a variety of topics: identity, sense of belonging, family ties and human connection. Things that we often take for granted, until our life changes dramatically A beautifully-written, deep, touching story of Antonia Vega, a college professor and writer, mourning and grieving her husband. Antonia is trying to make sense of the world without her kind and selfless Sam and re-discover who she is and how to continue living in this after-life.This short, but very powerful novel will make you consider a variety of topics: identity, sense of belonging, family ties and human connection. Things that we often take for granted, until our life changes dramatically and we need to redefine them in order to survive the new reality.Whether you are a long time admirer or new to Julia Alvarez's work, you are bound to be fascinated by her wonderful writing style and the strengths of emotions she is describing.Thank you to Edelweiss and Algonquin Books for the ARC provided in exchange fro an honest opinion.
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  • Tooter
    January 1, 1970
    4 Stars!
  • Judith E
    January 1, 1970
    With a heavy heart, the newly widowed Antonia learns to navigate the complications of everyday life. She is a deliberate and conscientious thinking woman in her 60s that suddenly finds herself faced with decisions about sisterhood, immigration, matchmaking, and who really matters most. Through author Alvarezs polished storytelling, we certainly know whats going on in Antonias head along with the humor she finds in the nearby towns name of Athol:). With a heavy heart, the newly widowed Antonia learns to navigate the complications of everyday life. She is a deliberate and conscientious thinking woman in her 60’s that suddenly finds herself faced with decisions about sisterhood, immigration, matchmaking, and who really matters most. Through author Alvarez’s polished storytelling, we certainly know what’s going on in Antonia’s head along with the humor she finds in the nearby town’s name of Athol:).
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  • Jill
    January 1, 1970
    At a time when a tide of meanness is sweeping over the country, we need someone to stand up and remind us what it means to be human. And who better than Julia Alverez to do so?Her first adult novel in 15 years is here and its a winner. It will appeal to anyone who has had the fortune to experience the messy, wacky, frustrating, and wonderful joys of sisterhoodanyone who has stood at a painful crossroads trying to piece together the broken pieces of her lifeand anyone who has ever been driven to At a time when a tide of meanness is sweeping over the country, we need someone to stand up and remind us what it means to be human. And who better than Julia Alverez to do so?Her first adult novel in 15 years is here and it’s a winner. It will appeal to anyone who has had the fortune to experience the messy, wacky, frustrating, and wonderful joys of sisterhood…anyone who has stood at a painful crossroads trying to piece together the broken pieces of her life…and anyone who has ever been driven to ask herself, “who is the most important one?”The plot is straightforward: a recently retired professor named Antonia, whose husband suddenly dies, is thrust into competing situations. One is the demands of the sisterhood with its own eternal rules (“Never remain dry-eyed when a sister is crying” and “Don’t ever let on you can survive, or would want to, without them.”) The other is closer to home: a mid-teen, undocumented teenager scared and needy on her doorstep. It has the makings of a soap opera but in Julia Alverez’s capable hands, it is far from it. It is an authentic tale of every woman: striving to carve out the space and time to give to others without denying her own needs and importance. The author asks: What do we owe those closest to us? What do we owe a desperate stranger? What do we owe the dead…and most of all what do we owe ourselves?Juxtaposed on these dual plots is the sad realities of today: the hunting down of young immigrants who are just trying to survive and those who have the compassion to help them in their darkest hours. The book shines a spotlight on how challenging life is when we forget that we are all fellow human beings.This book – filled with Julia Alverez’s legendary storytelling – made me care for the characters and feel right along with them. A big thanks to Algonquin Books who allowed me to be an advance reader in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    Afterlife by Julia Alvarez is a wonderful piece of literary fiction. This is the first book I have read by Ms. Alvarez, but as I enjoyed this so much, I am going to be sure to read more. This book brings into play a lot of family and social dynamics: sisters/relationships with siblings, family death, death of a spouse and soulmate, mental illness, and balancing ones needs while also addressing others needs. This book also addresses a lot of emotional issues as well: love, loss, and acceptance in Afterlife by Julia Alvarez is a wonderful piece of literary fiction. This is the first book I have read by Ms. Alvarez, but as I enjoyed this so much, I am going to be sure to read more. This book brings into play a lot of family and social dynamics: sisters/relationships with siblings, family death, death of a spouse and soulmate, mental illness, and balancing one’s needs while also addressing other’s needs. This book also addresses a lot of emotional issues as well: love, loss, and acceptance in the abrupt passing of Antonia’s husband Sam, hope and belief that a life can be better lived that takes shape from the situation of undocumented immigrants that is placed on Antonia during the course of the novel, love and fear and frustration and compassion in regards to Antonia and her sisters in the situation with Izzy’s mental issues and temporary disappearance. And finally: optimism, acceptance, and perseverance in the ability for Antonia to overcome the all-encompassing loss and change to her life from losing Sam and creating a new existence to the years she has hereafter. I love that she is creating a way to keep Sam “alive” and with her by always considering what he would have done if he were still alive, and in that keeping a part of him always with her in her path forward. That is a lot to say in such a small story, but the author was able to weave all of this together in a beautiful tale full of characters, imagery, and fabulous text and quotes. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.5/5 starsThank you NetGalley and Algonquin Books for this ARC and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon and B&N accounts upon publication. There
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  • Fabian
    January 1, 1970
    Severely overshadowed by her incredible masterpiece, In the Time of the Butterflies, this story again tells of four sisters--all as unique as this: actually having literary doppelgangers in American classic Little Women--which is why the formula is foolproof, but also, you know, explored significantly.Afterlife is a smaller pond. It's not historical and yet, wait, oh yes. Will we ever forget how persecuted brown people from the South were treated in the grand ol US--and this narrative brings Severely overshadowed by her incredible masterpiece, In the Time of the Butterflies, this story again tells of four sisters--all as unique as this: actually having literary doppelgangers in American classic Little Women--which is why the formula is foolproof, but also, you know, explored significantly.Afterlife is a smaller pond. It's not historical and yet, wait, oh yes. Will we ever forget how persecuted brown people from the South were treated in the grand ol US--and this narrative brings such contemporary colors forth. Afterlife is already here: the Trump years.
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  • Linden
    January 1, 1970
    I've enjoyed Alvarez's work in the past, so I was incredibly disappointed when I read her new novel. It's about Antonia, a recently widowed retired professor, her relationships with her sisters, and some undocumented immigrants she connects with through a man who is working on a neighboring Vermont farm. The problem was that I found I didn't care about any of the characters, and the plot seemed disjointed. I did not find even one likable character, which is a fiction deal breaker for me. Thanks I've enjoyed Alvarez's work in the past, so I was incredibly disappointed when I read her new novel. It's about Antonia, a recently widowed retired professor, her relationships with her sisters, and some undocumented immigrants she connects with through a man who is working on a neighboring Vermont farm. The problem was that I found I didn't care about any of the characters, and the plot seemed disjointed. I did not find even one likable character, which is a fiction deal breaker for me. Thanks to Edelweiss and to the publisher for this ARC.
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  • Xueting
    January 1, 1970
    How did I only just find out that one of my all-time favourite authors has a new novel, her first for adults in more than 10 years, coming out in about two weeks??? As with many things, I blame the coronavirus.
  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    "You, who quite truly knew him, can quite truly continue in his spirit and on his path. Make it the task of your mourning to explore what he had expected of you, had hoped for you, had wished to happen to you...his influence has not vanished from your existence..."~from The Dark Interval by Rainer Maria RilkeReading about the death of a loved one during the time of Coronavirus is difficult. I feel the cold blade of fear which I daily push back down into my subconscious, then "tie my hat and "You, who quite truly knew him, can quite truly continue in his spirit and on his path. Make it the task of your mourning to explore what he had expected of you, had hoped for you, had wished to happen to you...his influence has not vanished from your existence..."~from The Dark Interval by Rainer Maria RilkeReading about the death of a loved one during the time of Coronavirus is difficult. I feel the cold blade of fear which I daily push back down into my subconscious, then "tie my hat and crease my shawl" to perform my tasks and obligations.Afterlife is the story of Hispanic retired literature teacher Antonia who mourns the loss of her husband Sam. She struggles to understand how to now live. Her sisters are calling her to join them in confronting their sibling's bipolar illness. An illegal immigrant employed by her Vermont farmer neighbor implores her to help him bring his girl to join him.All these demands! Antonia just wants to tend her own garden and live with her sorrow. But knowing Sam has changed her. His compassion remains an example of how to live in this world. Sam"seems to be resurrecting inside her," and she wonders, "is this all his afterlife will amount to? Saminspired deeds from the people who love him?"Antonia's mind is filled with the books she loved and taught, including Rainer Maria Rilke. Last year I had read The Dark Interval which shares Rilke's letters of condolences. Alvarez's novel embodies Rilke's philosophy.Against her nature and inclination, Sam leads Antonia to risk becoming involved in the lives and problems of other people. "Living your life is a full-time job," a sister justifies. Isn't that the truth? Then, a therapist reads Rilke to the sisters: "Death does not wound us without, at the same time, lifting us toward a more perfect understanding of this being and of ourselves."Antonia's students always responded to Rilke's poem 'Archaic Torso of Apollo" which ends, "you must change your life." It is a line that has haunted ever me since I first read it. The question Antonia wonders, is how and when do we change it?It is a question to be asked over and over. There is no end to such a consideration. We read a book and what we learn reminds us that we must change our life. We see a work of art, Rilke his Greek torso, for Antonia the Landscape with The Fall of Icarus, or when hear a symphony, or observe a beautiful spring flower or a deep woods filled with birdsong--All the world is life-changing if we allow ourselves to truly live and open our senses and hearts and minds. To be alive is life-changing. To die is life-changing.Antonia accepts the challenge to be Saminspired. Alvarez is a brilliant writer who has combined a deep reflection on existence with timely questions. There is no better time for this message. I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.
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  • Karen (idleutopia_reads)
    January 1, 1970
    Occasionally, she takes sips of sorrow, afraid the big wave might wash her away. Antonia Vega is a retired college professor, writer, poet, wife of the local Vermont doctor who recently passed away. Shes coming up on her grief deadline while dealing with life still moving on and bringing waves of different events, tragedies, and questions of identity that seem to never end. This story is what happens after the happily ever after and when a reader is left bereft when she wants to get the words “Occasionally, she takes sips of sorrow, afraid the big wave might wash her away.” Antonia Vega is a retired college professor, writer, poet, wife of the local Vermont doctor who recently passed away. She’s coming up on her grief deadline while dealing with life still moving on and bringing waves of different events, tragedies, and questions of identity that seem to never end. This story is what happens after the happily ever after and when a reader is left bereft when she wants to get the words right, armed with writers and their words in her mind to try to make sense of the world around them. A few months away from the year anniversary of her husband’s death, Antonia is accosted by the disappearance of her older sister, Izzy, who was supposed to meet up her sisters, Tilly and Mona, to celebrate Antonia’s first birthday after her husband’s death. Meanwhile, back in her home, Antonia has become entangled in the lives of the immigrant workers in her neighbor’s ranch, and a recently arrived younger girlfriend who’s pregnant. I loved following along with Antonia’s thoughts and the voyage we accompanied her on. The sisterly dynamics were spot-on, explained under rules that the sisterhood understand and are never said and never questioned. Each sister has an assigned ringtone in their phones that’s supposed to be ascribed to their characters, “makes it easier when you can pin someone down as a type with a ringtone or label”. Alvarez writes so much in these 272 pages, she writes about immigration, never fully assimilating even when you have a job teaching English for four decades, afterlife, sisterhood, patriarchy, economic dependence on immigration in the United States especially for farmers, humanity and the lack of humanity that abounds, and so much more. I truly loved so many of the passages I read. Events segue from one to another in a way that did leave me scrambling but helped me to sympathize with Antonia’s predicaments. Trigger warning for suicide, mental illness, and one fatphobic comment that jarred me a bit. No idea what it was doing there and it could have been taken out but it didn’t take away from the book. The side characters, especially the immigrant workers, were a bit two dimensional, helping to propel the story and the hardships that are faced to people that come to the United States so I wish that would have been explored more. However, this wasn’t the purpose of the story. We are following Antonia and seeing the world through her eyes as she just tries to reshape her world after so many griefs. I love her introspection, her own calling out about her privilege and how that taints how she sees the world around her. Plus, she’s a reader and I love following her thoughts. I truly recommend this. “Death does not wound us without, at the same time, lifting us toward a more prefect understanding of this being and ourselves”.
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  • Laura • lauralovestoread
    January 1, 1970
    This was my very first book by this author, but it wont be my last. I started reading Afterlife and wasnt sure what to expect, but I was blown away by the beautiful, rich writing and themes of this story.The love for family and sisterhood, grief and loss, as well as immigration and mental illness. Powerful topics but told with such a beautiful and impactful way. The narrator, Alma Cuervo, for this audiobook was also great, and Ill definitely be looking for more titles by her.*thank you Algonquin This was my very first book by this author, but it won’t be my last. I started reading Afterlife and wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was blown away by the beautiful, rich writing and themes of this story.⁣⁣The love for family and sisterhood, grief and loss, as well as immigration and mental illness. Powerful topics but told with such a beautiful and impactful way. The narrator, Alma Cuervo, for this audiobook was also great, and I’ll definitely be looking for more titles by her.⁣*thank you Algonquin for the gifted copy for review. All opinions are my own
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