Part 1 In December 1991, Allende's daughter Paula, aged 26, fell gravely ill and sank into a coma.

This book started as a letter to Paula written during the hours spent at her bedside, and became a personal memoir and a testament to the ties that bind families – a brave, enlightening, inspiring true story. This book was written during the interminable hours the novelist Isabel Allende spent in the corridors of a Madrid hospital, in her hotel room and beside her daughter Paula's bed during the summer and autumn of 1992. Faced with the loss of her child, Isabel Allende turned to storytelling, to sustain her own spirit and to convey to her daughter the will to wake up, to survive. The story she tells is that of her own life, her family history and the tragedy of her nation, Chile, in the years leading up to Pinochet's brutal military coup. Part 2 Novelist Isabel Allende's daughter, Paula, died after entering into a coma following an acute attack of a porphyria disease. Allende was at her daughter's side in a hospital in Spain, where Paula was living with her husband, and later in Allende's home in California, where Paula spent the last months of her life. When Paula first lost consciousness, Allende began writing for her an account of her illness, which soon grew into a memoir of Allende's own life: "Listen, Paula, I am going tell you a story, so that when you wake up you will not feel so lost" (p. 3), Allende begins. As Allende tells of her childhood, political and feminist awakenings, and her growth as a writer, she also watches Paula sink deeper and deeper into coma. She remains insistent, however, that Paula will recover, works in secret with a sympathetic physician to wean Paula from the respirator that breathes for her, then flies her back to California for rehabilitation. In the end, though, she faces the reality that Paula will not recover, and, as she finishes telling Paula the story of her own life, she discovers that she has found the strength to let Paula go. Paula dies in a sunny room in Allende's house, surrounded by family and friends.

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