Julia Alvarez gives us a fictionalized account of the lives of two actual women, a mother and daughter, in her absorbing new novel, In the Name of SalomÅ½. SalomÅ½ Ure–a Henr’quez lived in the Dominican Republic in the second half of the 1800s, a time of constant political upheaval. As a teenager, she made her mark in Dominican history writing poetry for la patria. SalomÅ½'s words changed lives and motivated her countrymen to fight for freedom. Her daughter, Camila, has her own story as well, living her life in the name of SalomÅ½.
With the madness of countless revolutions as the story's backdrop, Julia Alvarez creates a vivid portrait of two lives and how each affected the other. Weaving their stories together in a unique fashion, the author alternates chapters between the voices of SalomÅ½ and Camila. But rather than telling the story of two generations chronologically, Alvarez chooses to tell Camila's story in reverse. The book opens with Camila at age 65 packing her belongings for Cuba. Castro is in control, and Camila wants to return to the country where she lived much of her early life in exile. As her story moves backward through time, we discover why Camila is a woman who feels like "a bead unstrung from the necklace of generations." Intertwined is the life of SalomÅ½, starting from girlhood and ending with her death when Camila is only three years old. At age 17, SalomÅ½ becomes an icon as her poetry sparks the passions of her countrymen through many revolutions and government upheavals. But Alvarez brings SalomÅ½ from her larger than life persona down to our size to an insecure teenage girl who has a passion for freedom, a plain young woman who longs for true love, a mother with a fierce desire to change a country for the sake of her children. As both stories progress, it is obvious Camila has lived her life in the shadow of SalomÅ½'s greatness, a woman she knows only through poetry and family stories. Yet, when asked by her young niece why Camila always downplays her own contributions, Camila replies, "We are all the same size, don't you know? Just some of us stretch ourselves a little more." An inspiring novel, In the Name of SalomÅ½ makes us want to stretch ourselves just as these two great women did.
Julia Steele stretches herself selling advertising for BookPage.