IMAGINING ISABEL by Omar S. Castañeda


Age Range: 12 & up
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 Caste§eda's fine first novel, Among the Volcanoes (1991), described Isabel's struggle to get medical help for her mother in the face of the Mayan traditions of her Guatamalan village and the opposition of her fiancÇ, Lucas. The present book opens with their marriage, her mother's death, and a letter offering Isabel a chance to become a teacher, a dream Lucas now supports. Though the program lasts only a few weeks and students get stipends exceeding their needs, there are difficulties: Isabel's family now depends on her, and Lucas's parents and grandparents must also agree to her going. This is achieved in a debate marvelous for its indirection, a telling contrast to the more direct discourse Isabel encounters at the small government-run school. Life under the threat of warring soldiers and guerrillas has also rendered the other naturally affectionate Mayan women secretive and cautious, inhibiting both the communication of ideas and the sharing of the terrible troubles they have all experienced. Still, instructional techniques are taught; more importantly, after a suspenseful sequence in which Isabel's support is sought against the terrorists, the women become more open with one another, and she learns to ``imagine'' herself as a strong woman whose true calling is to teach and to nurture her family. Told in a vivid, lyrical style, rich in details of Mayan culture and Guatamalan life and politics, a novel with characters who are not only well realized as individuals but also effectively embody the groups and viewpoints contending for their ravaged country. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-525-67431-4
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1994