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 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 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 of her than wordsAfterlife 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? 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 thoughtprovoking 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 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! 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 evento 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. This is a beautifully written book.richrawrealoutstanding ‘gorgeous writing.with thoughtprovoking 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 sweettalking 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, storysparkling 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 lovedthan 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? Saminspired 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!!! “[Antonia] is finding it increasingly difficult to keep up her faith in people, in herself In the past when her own stash got this low, there was always [her husband] Sam filling up her cup with his abundant kindness She has continued to think a lot about the afterlife, especially in the absence of any sign from Sam What, if anything, does it mean? An afterlife? All she has come up with is that the only way not to let the people she loves die forever is to embody what she loved about them Otherwise the world is indeed depleted…” Julia Alvarez, AfterlifeJulia Alvarez’s novel Afterlife is a tiny thing It is only 256pages long, and those pages belong to a hardcover that is just larger than pocketsized This is worth mentioning, because there is a lot crammed into those pages When the novel begins, we are introduced to a recentlyretired English teacher named Antonia Vega Within the past year, Antonia’s beloved husband Sam died of a heart attack – an incident breathtakingly recounted in the dazzling first pages While dealing with this loss, Antonia – who immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic – is drawn into the orbit of an undocumented worker from Mexico, who labors at a farm near her rural Vermont home That worker has a pregnant girlfriend, who shortly arrives at her front door, in need of assistance Somewhat grudgingly, Antonia tries to help, all while a wellmeaning – or is he suspicious? – sheriff keeps nosing around her house To top it all off, Antonia’s eldest sister, Izzy, has failed to show up for a birthday party, causing Antonia and her other sisters (Tilly and Mona) to fear the worse That is a lot of plot for a little book With each of the balls that Alvarez threw into the air, I wondered how such a slight spine could carry so much conflict and thematic weight After all, entire books have been devoted to exploring grief, to exploring family and sisterhood, to exploring the plight of immigrants, illegal and otherwise And that doesn’t even account for the forays into mental illness I worried that it would be hard, if not impossible, to give each of these elements the time and attention it deserved More than that, I thought that the overall busyness would be a distraction, reducing Antonia’s experiences to the biblical trials of Job It would give away too much to attempt to explain how Alvarez pulls this off, but she does Despite all the twists, Afterlife never feels freighted with contrivances It hums along briskly, and each event that pops up leads naturally to the next step in the story More than that, each individual trial informs the other challenges faced by Antonia, so that there is a subtle interlocking of everything that occurs All this is helped along immensely by Alvarez’s graceful prose, easy wit, wise perceptions, and love of language, both English and Spanish This – I am not proud to say – is the first book I’ve read by Julie Alvarez Thus, it is hard to rank Afterlife in terms of her career output Nevertheless, I have the feeling that this is not necessarily up there with – for instance – In the Time of Butterflies (which is currently sitting on my shelf) I got the sense, instead, that this was a bit of a valedictory for Alvarez If nothing else, it feels personal, since Alvarez and Antonia share many similarities (the same rough age, the same immigration experience, the same profession) Afterlife is set in 2019, with the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand specifically referenced as a timepoint Beside the mass shooting, Antonia’s life is filled with worries, both local and worldwide She has concerns about the treatment of immigrants along the southern border, about healthcare, about the environment, not to mention her fears of being alone, of aging As I read this, I thought about Antonia, and how she would be reacting right now, because if she thought 2019 was a tough year…Well, as the saying goes, 2020 would like you to hold its beer There is a lot of sadness in these pages, and a moment or two of despair Yet, when I finished, I actually felt pretty good That is a testament to how fully realized Antonia is as a character Alvarez draws her with a deft touch, making her – and the world she inhabits – feel quite real This holds true for even secondary characters Despite not having a lot of pagetime, almost everyone who appears in Afterlife, from Antonia’s sisters to the nosey sheriff, is dealt with empathetically, and given enough resonance to make you believe they have an independent existence, and are not just plotpoints meant to propel Antonia’s arc Importantly, Alvarez also imbues Antonia with the ability to grow and learn, so that by the time we reach the final pages, she has some measure of hope As a reader, I did too. 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,stressful events pile on, and Antonia islost 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 In Afterlife Antonia Vega’s world changes when her husband Sam dies suddenly, just as she retires from her teaching position as an English professor in rural Vermont As Antonia attempts to deal with her grief, two of her sisters, Tilly and Mona, reach out for her assistance with coaxing their other sister, Izzy, into seeking help for her erratic and unstable behavior — An increasing worry among the sisters Antonia’s neighbor, Roger, employs immigrants to work on his farm, one of whom reaches out to Antonia for help with coordinating his girlfriend’s arrival from Mexico Estela shows up, pregnant, and is turned away by her boyfriend, Mario, unhappy to see she is having a baby, which cannot be his With these coinciding situations, Antonia searches for balance, trying to navigate life without her husband and reflecting on questions from a Tolstoy story she taught: Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?Afterlife is my first Julia Alvarez book and I really liked it The topics are real and I enjoyed the style used throughout this wellwritten story. 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 questionswhat 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 enad 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!