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Afterlife by Julia Alvarez
  • In The News

GNG in Julia Alvarez’s “Afterlife”

Published almost thirty years ago, Julia Alvarez’s book, In the Time of the Butterflies (En el tiempo de las mariposas in Spanish), is an emotional, soul-stirring read. The moving account details the fictionalized experiences of the Mirabal sisters living under the Trujillo regime. She introduces her readers to themes of sisterhood, freedom of movement, activism, corruption, and systematic abuse. In the Time of the Butterflies is a must-read and is one of the many brilliant pieces of literature created by Alvarez.

Photo of author Julia Alvarez
Photo of author Julia Alvarez by Brandon Cruz Gonzalez – El Vocero De Puerto Rico.

More recently, Julia Alvarez published a new book last spring, which is her first adult novel in almost fifteen years. With moments of heartfulness and heartbreak, humor, wit, and suspense, Afterlife tells the story of Antonia. A recent retiree, Antonia is trying to navigate and repair her life after the loss of her husband, only to encounter a number of struggles and hardships along the way. Afterlife beautifully encapsulates the themes of humanity and serving others, while also bringing to light the fear of the “other.”

Cover of Julia Alvarez's book, Afterlife
Cover of Afterlife by Julia Alvarez

Fear of the “Other”

Throughout these past few years, the fear of the “other” has plagued our country. There has been an increasing effort to differentiate the “us” from the “them.” Julia Alvarez illustrates this a few times throughout her novel. One particular scene that comes to mind occurs towards the end of her book. Essentially, Antonia is pulled over by a police officer for speeding. Before letting her go, the officer peers inside of her car. He notices Antonia driving with a “brown male passenger in front” and a “brown girl cowering in the backseat” (pg. 246), with a baby in her arms. Immediately, his face “tightens with authority.” He even goes so far as to move his hand on his holster. 

Frustratingly, one must ask themself, “why?” Why did this officer have such a reaction to two unarmed people, one of whom is holding a baby? Neither had anything to do with Antonia’s speeding. One can only make sense of the situation by concluding that the officer’s behavior comes down to his “fear of the other,” his fear of those that are “different” from him.

Serving Others

In the chaotic world we live in today, it is important for us to come together as one. The “us” versus “them” mentality needs to leave our minds. We need to recognize that we belong to the same human family. Rather than shunning others and building barriers, we must come together to serve one another. We are all human and deserving of compassion.

With the concept of serving others in mind, Julia Alvarez mentions us, Good News Garage (GNG), in her novel! When we asked Julia why she mentioned GNG in her new book, Afterlife, she said:

“Every time I hear about Good News Garage…my heart lights up. I feel like I live in a world of good people and it stirs me to want to work harder to ensure business models like GNG survive. I’ve never had the privilege (yes!) to donate one of our old cars…but like other things I’ve wanted to do and haven’t had the occasion or opportunity or big heartedness to do, I do them fictionally, hoping to inspire myself and others.”

We want to thank Ms. Alvarez for her generous words. Afterlife acts as a reminder that love and compassion keep the world going. This is something we keep in mind here at Good News Garage, and can further be illustrated through our success stories.

To learn more about Julia Alvarez, her books, readings, and events, please visit her website at: https://www.juliaalvarez.com/.