cover image The Wind Knows My Name

The Wind Knows My Name

Isabel Allende. Ballantine, $28 (272p) ISBN 978-0-593-59810-8

Refugee children flee from war and unrest in the powerful latest from Allende (Violeta). In 1938 Austria, five-year-old Samuel Adler is grudgingly placed by his mother on a rescue train to Great Britain. He completes the journey, and never sees his parents again. Samuel struggles in an orphanage until he settles in 1942 with a Quaker couple. At 25, he is a violinist with the London Philharmonic, and soon his interest in jazz takes him to America. In a parallel narrative set in 2019, Anita Diaz, seven, leaves El Salvador with her mother to escape ceaseless gang violence, and the two embark on an odyssey that sees them traveling on top of train cars and by foot. They make it to the U.S., where a new family separation policy leaves Anita, who is partially blind, alone in Nogales, Ariz., and her mother deported. Anita shuttles from one host family to another while a social worker and lawyer work tirelessly to safeguard her until she can be reunited with her mother. The two threads converge, first, with bitter irony—Samuel’s grandson is a presidential adviser who advocates for harsh immigration policies (and will remind readers of Trump administration political adviser Stephen Miller)—and, by the end, with hope. The dual narrative structure gives historical weight to the contemporary story line, and Allende finds real depth in her characters, especially when portraying their sacrifices. This authentic and emotionally harrowing work is a triumphant return to form. Agent: Johanna Castillo, Writers House. (June)