Ambition vs. altruism; call it a tie
He had that glow of success, touched perhaps by the shame of that success. How we feel when we are much feted and wonder if there is room for our darker nature in this bright acclamation.
Alma suffers from too much success. The latest volume in her saga is years overdue and nothing is forthcoming—that is until she becomes obsessed with the story of Isabel, the mysterious Doña who chaperoned 22 boys across the Atlantic. The boys are orphans selected as carriers of the smallpox vaccine, to form a pustular Jacob’s Ladder from Spain to the Americas. They’re a cargo meant to rescue the human race.
Saving the World alternates between Alma’s life and Isabel’s vastly different one—a world that features a rabidly ambitious doctor, a horde of boys climbing the rigging, and a heroine who often chooses excitement over altruism. Amid a climax of wild improbabilities, Alma remains maddeningly self-referential. Late in the novel she recollects an Emily Dickinson poem memorized in seventh grade—“After great pain, a formal feeling comes…”
There are indeed moments of great feeling in this novel, but we somehow view them from a distance.