Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books
Date of publication: June 6th, 2023
Trigger Warnings: confinement, death, genocide, racism, sexual violence, xenophobia, trafficking, grief, death of parent(s), murder, forced abandonment, deportation, war, child abuse, child death, pedophilia, stalking
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Historical, Contemporary, Family, Holocaust, World War II, Adult Fiction, Adult
This powerful and moving novel from the New York Times bestselling author of A Long Petal of the Sea weaves together past and present, tracing the ripple effects of war and immigration on one child in Europe in 1938 and another in the United States in 2019.
Vienna, 1938. Samuel Adler was six years old when his father disappeared during Kristallnacht—the night their family lost everything. Samuel’s mother secured a spot for him on the last Kindertransport train out of Nazi-occupied Austria to the United Kingdom, which he boarded alone, carrying nothing but a change of clothes and his violin.
Arizona, 2019. Eight decades later, Anita Diaz, a blind seven-year-old girl, and her mother board another train, fleeing looming danger in El Salvador and seeking refuge in the United States. However, their arrival coincides with the new family separation policy, and Anita finds herself alone at a camp in Nogales. She escapes through her trips to Azabahar, a magical world of the imagination she created with her sister back home.
Anita’s case is assigned to Selena Duran, a young social worker who enlists the help of a promising lawyer from one of San Francisco’s top law firms. Together they discover that Anita has another family member in the United States: Leticia Cordero, who is employed at the home of now eighty-six-year-old Samuel Adler, linking these two lives.
Spanning time and place, The Wind Knows My Name is both a testament to the sacrifices that parents make and a love letter to the children who survive the most unfathomable dangers—and never stop dreaming.
A sense of misfortune hung in the air. From the early morning hours, a menacing breeze had swept through the streets, whistling between the buildings, forcing its way in through the cracks under doors and windows.The Wind Knows My Name by Isabel Allende
Samuel was six years old when his father, a doctor, disappeared during Vienna’s infamous Kristallnacht. Saved by a veteran neighbor, Samuel’s mother secured passage for him on the Kinderstransport, a train taking Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied Austria. Samuel was delivered to England and, after being bounced between a couple of foster homes, was adopted by a Quaker couple. Eighty years later, Anna Diaz, a blind seven-year-old, was captured with her mother trying to cross the border into the United States illegally. She is separated from her mother and put into a detainment camp for unaccompanied minors. Her way of dealing with the trauma of being separated from her mother and the horrors of abusive foster homes is to escape to an imaginary place called Azabahar. Samuel and Anna’s paths cross when a social worker and lawyer do pro-bono work and find that Anna has a relative in the San Fransisco area. That relative is Samuel’s housekeeper, and she has been living with Samuel since Covid shut the country down. While Anna gets settled with Samuel and Leticia, the lawyer and the social worker continue their search for Anna’s mother. Will Anna and her mother be reunited?
What attracted me to The Wind Knows My Name was the cover. That is why I wished for it to begin with. What also attracted me to this book was the plotline (which I did try to summarize in the paragraph above). I usually don’t read books that closely follow recent (think within the last 3-4 years) events but something about this book and how the blurb was written made me want to read it. I am glad I did because this book was a great read.
There are numerous trigger warnings in The Wind Knows My Name. I won’t lie and say they weren’t graphic; some triggers were. But, and I stress this, the ones that involved children, the author only did the bare bones. She explained enough for me to get the gist of what was happening and then left it. The triggers are:
- Confinement (non-graphic, on page): Anna was confined to a center where the border patrol agents took unaccompanied minors after they were captured crossing the border. Samuel and Leticia were limited to the house during the pandemic.
- Death (mostly non-graphic, on page): Death was a running theme throughout the book.
- Genocide (slightly graphic, on page): Samuel escaped Nazi Austria and discovers his mother and father died in concentration camps. Leticia and her father, by pure luck, escape their village in El Salvador, being decimated by rebels.
- Racism (graphic, on page): Samuel and Anna experience racism during the book.
- Sexual Violence (non-graphic, on page): Both Anna and her mother experience sexual violence towards them during the book.
- Xenophobia (mostly non-graphic, on page): Anna and her mother experience xenophobia while trying to cross the border. Anna experiences it while living in foster homes. Leticia experienced it growing up in the United States.
- Trafficking (mentioned, off-page): One of the villains worked for a human trafficker.
- Grief (graphic, on page): Samuel experiences grief over his parents’ deaths and when he is forced to leave his mother. He also grieves over his wife’s death. Anna mourns the death of her sister, her mother leaving, and leaving her grandmother in El Salvador. Leticia grieves the death of her mother, siblings, and grandmother. Leticia’s father grieves for his lost family.
- Death of parent (s) (non-graphic, on page): Samuel’s mother and father were killed in concentration camps. Anna’s father was killed when she was very young. Leticia’s mother, grandmother, and siblings were killed.
- Forced Abandonment (graphic, on page): Samuels’ mother sent him away to England. Anna’s mother was forced to leave Anna at the detention center.
- Deportation (graphic, on page): There are several scenes where immigrants were forcibly deported. Anna’s mother was deported to Mexico without her.
- War (semi-graphic, on page): Samuel survived World War II. Leticia’s village was decimated during a civil war in El Salvador.
- Child Abuse (semi-graphic, on page): Anna is forced to do her foster mother’s chores. She was verbally abused when she wet the bed. In one scene, she was locked in a closet for hours, only to be taken out by her social worker. A foster father attempted to abuse Anna sexually.
- Child Death (nongraphic, off-page): Anna’s younger sister was killed in an accident that caused Anna to go blind.
- Pedophilia (semi-graphic, on and off page): Anna and her mother were chased by a man who wanted to molest Anna. He had forced Anna to touch him once. Anna’s foster father attempted to molest her.
- Stalking (non-graphic and off page): A corrupt ex-police officer stalked Anna and her mother in El Salvador. He stalked them to the United States border.
If any of these trigger you, I suggest not reading the book.
There are four plotlines in The Wind Knows My Name. When I figured that out, I was a little wary. In my experience, books with more than one plotline confuse the everliving out of me. I am happy to say that this book did not. The author marked the chapters, stating whose plotline it was and, in some cases, where in time that person was.
The first plotline centered around Samuel. It starts when he is six, and his world implodes during Kristallnacht. The plotline isn’t linear; it does jump around from past to present quite a bit. But, and I stress this, I was not confused or couldn’t figure out where in time it was. Samuel’s singular plotline ends when Leticia and then Anna move in.
The second plotline centers around Leticia. Now, this was a linear plotline, and it follows Leticia from a young girl recovering from ulcer surgery to her growing up in the United States. It details her rebellious youth and how that shaped her into the woman she grew into. Her singular storyline ends when she moves in with Samuel.
The third plotline centers around Selina and Frank. This plotline starts in the middle of the book. But it goes into Selina’s immigrant background and Frank’s white privilege background. This storyline intermingles with Samuel, Leticia, and Anna throughout the book.
The fourth storyline centers around Anna. This is a linear storyline and is told through Anna’s POV. Anna’s storyline details her horrific journey to the United States border and her horrible experiences in foster care/detention. I do want to note that her storyline is also in 2nd person. She is talking to her dead sister through her doll, and it is freaking heartbreaking.
Several secondary storylines flow throughout the book. The main secondary storyline was about Anna’s mother and where she could be. I was heartbroken by the way it ended. I did expect it to end the way it did, but at the same time, I was hoping it wouldn’t.
The characters in The Wind Knows My Name was well-written and well-fleshed out. Even the secondary characters had depth to them. The characters, along with the storyline, made this book.
When I realized that this book would take place during the pandemic (and I realized it fairly early in the book), I did almost DNF it. I did not want to read about the pandemic because I lived it. But the pandemic took a backseat to Anna’s story. But Anna’s storyline was so compelling that I chose to overlook that. I am glad that I did because this book was fantastic.
Immigration was a massive point in this book. The author didn’t sugarcoat what the border was like in 2019/2020 or how overwhelmed the agents were. Instead, she gave a good look into the chaos. And when Covid hit, the chaos just grew. There were some references to the political atmosphere during that time, and you know what? I agreed with what the author wrote. I never agreed with separating families; the author’s details were chilling when she wrote about that.
I liked Samuel, but he did not have it easy in life. I thought his being raised by Quakers was fascinating and wished that more detail had gone into his life with them. His traumatic past was why he was so attracted to Nadine and kept returning to her. Their relationship was exciting and different. The author could have written a whole book could have been written about that alone. Samuel, later on in life, was a better person than when he was younger. He was willing to do whatever it took to help Anna overcome her traumatic past. He was a gem, and I enjoyed his character.
I only got to know Leticia once the author explored her background. It was then that I started to understand her. She was like Anna in a way. She had lost her entire family in a rebel attack that wiped out her village, and she crossed the border illegally (with her father). Her reaction to being Anna’s only relative in America was spot on. But she had a big heart and couldn’t let that little girl stay in foster care. She was one of my favorite people in this book.
I loved Anna and was so mad for her throughout the book. Time and time again, she was let down by the adults in her life. I wanted to reach through the book, hug her, and tell her it would be alright. By the time she arrived at Leticia and Samuel’s house, she wasn’t the same girl she was at the beginning of the book. But, her time with Leticia and Samuel did heal her. She acted like a normal child instead of the withdrawn fearful child she was when she arrived.
The end of The Wind Knows My Name didn’t shock me. I figured it would end the way it did. I did like that Anna got her HEA, though. She deserved it after everything she had been through.
I recommend The Wind Knows My Name to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and mild sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warning list.
Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books, NetGalley, and Isabel Allende for allowing me to read and review The Wind Knows My Name. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of The Wind Knows My Name, then you will enjoy reading these books:
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