Author Isabel Allende writes: "For nearly fifty years I have been a toreador taunting violence and pain with a red cape, secure in the protection of the good luck birthmark on my back — even though in my heart I suspected that one day I would feel the claw of misfortune racking my shoulder." The blow falls on her daughter Paula who at age 28 lapsed into an irreversible coma following the onset of a rare blood disease. Allende (The House of the Spirits) tries to cope with her grief by telling the story of her tumultuous life in Chile and in different countries all over the world. In the process of retracing the past — a childhood ringed with fear, the colorful grandparents who influenced her, work as a journalist, travels abroad, the violent demise of her politician uncle, divorce and re-marriage, a long-lasting relationship with her mother — the author realizes that Paula's last gift to her was "the silence in which to examine my path through the world." This mesmerizing memoir is filled with startling and satisfying insights into family, grief, the search for identity, and the spiritual dimensions of stocktaking at midlife.