April 2020 Indie Next List
— Suzanne Lucey, Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC
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A Time Magazine Must-Read Book of 2020
A Most-Anticipated Book of the Year: O, The Oprah Magazine * The New York Times * The Washington Post *Vogue * Bustle * BuzzFeed * Ms. magazine * The Millions * Huffington Post * PopSugar * The Lily * Goodreads * Library Journal * LitHub * Electric Literature
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 Accents
“A stunning work of art that reminds readers Alvarez is, and always has been, in a class of her own.” —Elizabeth Acevedo, National Book Award-winning author of the New York Times bestseller The Poet X
Antonia 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?
Praise For Afterlife…
A Best Book of 2020: Kirkus Reviews * BookPage * Washington Independent Review of Books * Chicago Public Library
A Kirkus Reviews Best 2020 Fiction To Get Your Book Club Talking
A Latinidad Best Latinx Book of 2020
An AudioFile Magazine Best Audiobook of 2020
“A gorgeously intimate portrait of an immigrant writer and recent widow carving out hope in the face of personal and political grief.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine
"[Alvarez] reaps the fruits of her earlier literary efforts . . . Afterlife is anchored not just in easy humor and sharp observation, but in her fine-tuned sense for the intimacies of immigrant sisterhood.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Resonant . . . The novel, set in 2019, poses questions about American immigration and mental-health policies, and it is a moving exploration of the ways we inadvertently fail the people we love."
—The New Yorker
“A sweeping tour de force . . . One of the most significant Latina writers of her time.”
“A beautifully written novel with a timely theme.”
"Alvarez probes the contours of private moral decisions that echo our national conversation, which excludes migrant communities from claiming their contributions to our country. Afterlife will resonate with many readers in this era of social distance and anticipatory mourning."
—The Washington Post
"Alvarez crafts a moving portrait of the lengths people will go to help one another in moments of uncertainty."
“More than a few of Julia Alvarez’s peers must be shaking their heads that she can take almost 15 years off from writing adult fiction and come back with a novel as striking and lovely as Afterlife . . . [A] stunning novel.”
—The Associated Press
"Full of unexpected delights . . . [a] sunburst of a novel about family, immigration, love and moral choices.”
—The San Francisco Chronicle
“Skillfully executed, Afterlife is a compassionately political look at how we view the workers whom we gladly exploit, the immigration crisis, what we owe ourselves, and what we owe each other as a community. [Afterlife] displays Alvarez's poetic hyper-awareness of lyricism and word choice, and her ability to create moments that are simultaneously poignant and hilarious showcase this mastery.”
"The bestselling Dominican American author of In the Time of the Butterflies tackles weighty issues with a nice touch of humor in her new novel (which is on the shorter side, for anyone not in the mood for a big read)."
“A stunning work of art that reminds readers Alvarez is, and always has been, in a class of her own.”
—Elizabeth Acevedo, National Book Award-winning author of the New York Times bestseller The Poet X
“First, let’s acknowledge the fact that a new novel by Julia Alvarez . . .is major news. Second, and more importantly, her new adult novel is really good!
—BuzzFeed, "24 New Books We Couldn't Put Down"
"[A] remarkable and nuanced novel exploring immigration, humanity and compassion in a bitter and fractured world.”
“Afterlife is a succinct and powerful novel about human connection. Alvarez is a writer in full command of her form, reminding the world of her vast and venerable talent.”
—Shelf Awareness, starred review
“Alvarez’s prose is magnetic as she delves into the intricacies of sisterhood, immigration, and grief, once again proving her mastery as a storyteller. This stirring novel reminds readers that actions (big and small) have a lasting impact—so they should always act with love.”
—Library Journal, starred review
“A funny, moving novel of loss and love . . . Alvarez writes with knowing warmth about how well sisters know how to push on each other's bruises and how powerfully they can lift each other up. In this bighearted novel, family bonds heal a woman's grief.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"A charming novel of immigration, loss, and love."
—Booklist, starred review
“In one moving scene after another, Alvarez dramatizes the sustaining power of stories, whether for immigrants in search of a better life or for widows surviving a spouse’s death. True to its title, Afterlife cannily explores what it means to go on after a loss . . .This is a beautiful book.”
—BookPage, starred review
“Alvarez’s poignant return to adult fiction . . . raises powerful questions about the care people owe themselves and others . . . Alvarez blends light humor with deep empathy toward her characters, offering a convincing portrait of an older woman’s self discovery. This will satisfy her fans and earn new ones.”
“The In the Time of the Butterflies icon makes a satisfying and long-awaited return to adult fiction with this kind tale of grief and sisterhood. …deeply poignant."
“A tart, lovely book about rising to the challenge of understanding and accepting others.”
—The Philadelphia Inquirer, "Spring 2020’s Best Books"
"This timely novel explores how we’re all responsible for the world we live in, and how our lives can and must begin again."
—St. Louis Magazine
"It’s a slim book that begins in tragedy and searches for a way out."
—The San Antonio Express-News
“The queen is back with the exact novel we need in this fraught era. A powerful testament of witness and humanity written with audacity and authority.”
—Luis Alberto Urrea, bestselling author of The House of Broken Angels
“Ravishing and heartfelt, Afterlife explores the complexities of familial devotion and tragedy against a backdrop of a world in crisis, and the ways in which we struggle to maintain hope, faith, compassion and love. This is Julia Alvarez at her best and most personal.”
—Jonathan Santlofer, author of The Widower's Notebook
“From the very beginning, Julia Alvarez has proven herself a wise and funny writer with a sharp eye and ear for the joys and obligations of love and family. Now, in Afterlife, she applies her gifts to last things, as her Antonia struggles to move beyond the consolations of poetry and embrace the buzzing, blooming confusion of the world again.”
—Stewart O’Nan, author of Emily, Alone and Henry, Himself
“This novel gives the immigration debate a deeply human face, chronicling the story of a recently bereaved retiree who takes in a pregnant and undocumented teenager.”
—Vogue, "41 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2020"
"A book that strives to elevate from the anger and tribalism of our times, Afterlife wonders aloud about the obligations we owe to our human family."
—Goodreads, "33 Highly Anticipated Books of 2020"
Algonquin Books, 9781643751368, 288pp.
Publication Date: April 6, 2021
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. Antonia and her sisters are close and clearly love one another; at the same time, like many siblings, they argue, put each other in boxes, and are not always supportive. How are the sisters similar and how are they different? Which parts of their relationships felt familiar to you, if you have siblings?
2. Antonia notes that in many ways, her husband, Sam, remains alive in her head: she often wonders what he would say or do, and she lets that guide her own actions. Do you think Antonia would have made different decisions about Mario, Estela, and Izzy if Sam had still been alive?
3. How do you feel about the actions Antonia ultimately takes to help Mario and Estela? Does their story change your thinking about immigration in America? If so, how?
4. Discuss the sisters’ plan to get help for Izzy and the ways that it backfired. What do you think about how they handled the situation?
5. The sisters all have distinct roles in the sisterhood, and Antonia also had a defined role in her relationship with Sam (bad cop to his good cop). How did Sam’s death change the way Antonia viewed herself? How do you think Izzy’s death will alter the roles of the sisterhood? What is your role in your own family? Is it accurate, fair?
6. Antonia is often viewed as the selfish sister. Despite this, she struggles with recognizing and asking for what she needs. In Afterlife, she is frequently called on to assist others. How do you think this helps her better understand her own needs?
7. Antonia frequently recites lines from her favorite authors and poets, and their words provide comfort and wisdom. Do you think these literary references are always helpful? Do you have poems, songs, books, or other stories that you return to when you need comfort? How have the arts helped you in a dark time?
8. When we have identified an injustice or problem in our world or in our family, do we have a responsibility to address it? Antonia remembers a Tolstoy story with three questions: What is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? How do you decide the balance between taking care of yourself and taking care of others?
9. Antonia notes that ethnicity and race are often used by the sisters as their personal loophole. How do ethnicity, race, or culture qualify how we care and commit to community, self, family?
10. Why do you think this book is set in Vermont, a state with a relatively small Latino population? How might the demographics of her home influence Antonia’s choices?
11. Does the Japanese repair technique described in the epilogue feel relevant to your own life?
12. Who in this book has an afterlife?