This is Isabel Allende's funny and sorrowful tribute to her native country. She starts off with amusing stories: a cat-killing refrigerator; her grandfather's insistence that he saw the devil on a bus; her father who disguised himself as a Peruvian Indian woman with bright petticoats and a wig with long braids. Later in the book she moves on to the horror and repression suffered by the Chilean people following the CIA-assisted military coup in 1973. The book is not so much a memoir as it is an exploration of the nostalgia that has informed Allende's life and writing. She left Chile in 1975 to escape Pinochet's dictatorship. Her longing for that country of her memory and invention is palpable on every page. I've read several of her novels and always imagined her as a serious person. Here in her non-fiction writing I was surprised and delighted by her sense of humor. It's very wry and sometimes has barbs, but I found myself laughing out loud many times. She shares bizarre stories about her loony family members and explains the origins of the Chilean national character traits. The book is loosely organized, but Allende has the charms to make it work. There's a little history, a little geography, some politics, a lot of Chilean culture, and a whole lot of heart.If you've read her novels, this book will give you some insight into how she comes by some of her wild creations. Her first book, The House of the Spirits, began as a letter to her beloved grandfather who was dying. She describes the resulting novel as "an attempt to recapture my lost country, to reunite my scattered family, to revive the dead and preserve their memories, which were beginning to be blown away in the whirlwind of exile."