In her first nonfiction work, Allende (The Infinite Plan, 1993, etc.) produces a beautiful and deeply personal account of the process of grieving and the power of stories. This volume was written over a one-year period during which her 28-year-old daughter lay in a coma, struck down by a mysterious illness. The book's narrative shifts back and forth from a detailed, magical description of Chilean-born Allende's life to a somewhat numbing account of Paula's deteriorating condition. Certain figures from Allende's past are presented as the inspirations for her novels' characters as she documents her family life, a surreal three years spent in Lebanon, her first marriage, and the early years of her career, writing advice columns and horoscopes. Despite a tendency to revel in sentimentality, this is an engagingly readable and revealing book. It is divided into two sections by the simultaneous description of two pivotal events within the entwined narratives: Paula's transfer from a Spanish hospital to a home in San Francisco, where she will eventually die, and the author's account of the 1973 military overthrow of Chile's first socialist president, her great-uncle, Salvador Allende. Paula's move allows her to pass away surrounded by a loving family who eventually learns to accept tragedy and celebrate life. The military coup plunges Chile into a reign of terror marked by violent political repression, torture, and exile. Allende is forced to flee her country and, in an effort to come to terms with her life and the disintegrating world around her, she discovers her extraordinary talents as a novelist. Ultimately, Paula is a book about writing, a personal confession of the redemptive power of "the ineradicable vice of telling stories" in a world marked by injustice--both political and personal. A fascinating window into the creative world of Allende, who, with dignity and courage, tells her life's story as reflected through the tragic death of her daughter.