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The Wind Knows My Name: Summary and Characters Guide

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the wind knows my name summary characters explained

The following is a complete summary and character analysis for The Wind Knows My Name by Isabel Allende.

The Wind Knows My Name, Isabel Allende’s 22nd novel, was published in 2023 by Ballantine Books. While infused with Allende’s signature magical realism, the book primarily falls within the realm of historical fiction.

Allende, known for her fiction and nonfiction, grew up in Peru and later lived in Chile, Bolivia, and Lebanon. After the overthrow of Chile’s president Salvador Allende in 1973, she relocated to Venezuela, aiding those escaping the new government led by General Augusto Pinochet.

For a complete list of Isabel Allende’s books in order, click here!

The Wind Knows My Name by Isabel Allende

The novel reflects Allende’s deep understanding of Central and South American struggles, a recurring theme in her work. Recognized for her literary achievements and humanitarian efforts, Allende is a national bestseller.

In this guide we will go through the complete summary and character guide for The Wind Knows My Name by Isabel Allende. Note that the guide contains spoilers as well as references to critical plot points and the conclusion of this novel, so proceed with caution. Enjoy! ✨

Summary | Characters Guide

About the Author | Book Club Questions | Additional Recommendations

The Wind Knows My Name Summary

In 1938, young Samuel Adler finds himself escaping Vienna, Austria, due to the mounting persecution of Jewish communities under Nazi rule. Amidst the chaos of Kristallnacht, his father Rudolph is seized and sent to a concentration camp.

Samuel’s mother, Rachel, battles to secure their safe passage from Vienna. Sent alone to England, Samuel grows up detached from his Jewish roots, only realizing his solitude in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Upon moving to the US, Samuel reignites his passion for music, immersing himself in the jazz scene of New Orleans.

Fast forward to 1981, and we encounter Leticia Cordero, who travels to San Salvador for medical treatment with her father. Returning to El Mozote after five days, they discover their hometown in ruins, their family erased. Their journey north leads them to California, where Leticia forges a new life, complete with marriage, motherhood, and work as a housekeeper.

Jumping ahead to 2019, Selena Durán operates in Arizona, collaborating with the Magnolia Project to recruit lawyers for cases involving children separated at the US-Mexico border. Recruiting corporate lawyer Frank Angileri, their involvement takes an unexpected turn as they champion the case of Anita Díaz.

This young Salvadoran girl, residing in an Arizona detention center, copes with partial blindness and communicates with her sister Claudia’s ghost. Selena and Frank, initially drawn together for different reasons, become advocates navigating the complexities of Anita’s situation.

In the 1950s, Samuel meets Nadine Leblanc in New Orleans, and they marry, eventually moving to England. Despite a brief stint in Berkeley, California, where Nadine turns their home into a makeshift hostel, their differences lead to divorce. Years later, Samuel reunites with Nadine in Guatemala, where she has honed her fabric weaving skills. They return to Berkeley until Nadine’s passing shortly before 2019.

Following Nadine’s passing, Samuel hires Leticia as their housekeeper. The onset of the coronavirus pandemic prompts Leticia to temporarily move into Samuel’s house. This circumstance fosters a deepening bond between them, as Samuel’s aging prevents him from managing household tasks independently.

Meanwhile, Anita, having endured various traumas in different foster homes, finds solace in discovering that Leticia is a distant relative. Seeking refuge, Anita joins Samuel and Leticia, forming an unconventional yet supportive family unit. Together, they navigate the path of healing and growth, helping each other overcome the weight of their diverse traumatic pasts.

Simultaneously, Selena and Frank uncover a grim truth: Carlos Gómez, a man who inflicted harm on both Marisol and Anita, is a mass murderer. His property conceals the burial grounds of numerous women and children, including Marisol. While this revelation shatters Anita, it provides closure and an opportunity for Frank to secure Anita’s permanent residency in the US.

The Wind Knows My Name Characters Guide

Selena Durán

The central protagonist, Selena Durán, embarks on a hero-quest, driven by a specific mission. Working with the Magnolia Project, founded by Nadine Leblanc, Selena aims to reunite Anita’s mother, Marisol Díaz, with her daughter and secure asylum in the US. Engaged to Milosz Dudek initially, their relationship is strained due to Milosz’s controversial views on immigration. Selena later chooses to date Frank Angileri, prioritizing justice over an imperfect romance. Her primary quest is to find Marisol, which gradually transforms into a mission to help Anita.

Selena stands as a dedicated ally for immigration reform, shedding light on flaws in the US system at the Southern border. Her personal history, connected to her great-grandmother Mamagrande’s unauthorized entry to the US with her daughter Dora, aligns her with those seeking asylum. Fluent in Spanish, Selena empathizes with immigrants’ struggles. Her character evolves as she navigates quests and represents the broader potential for resolving the refugee crisis through empathy and effort.

Additionally, Selena embodies feminine strength and resilience, crucial in a narrative addressing gendered violence. Her family of “immortal” women illustrates the power of female bonds, enabling her to balance personal and professional life while connecting with women attempting to immigrate. Selena’s aspiration to become a lawyer showcases her determination to be self-reliant in aiding children like Anita, even as she enters a relationship with Frank, who is already willing and capable of fulfilling a legal role.

Leticia Cordero

Leticia Cordero, a secondary protagonist, plays a vital role in the narrative, particularly in relation to Samuel and Anita. Like Mamagrande, Samuel, and Anita, Leticia faced childhood oppression during the El Mozote massacre, altering her life.

Although not a significant part of her adult life, the massacre profoundly influences her character development, making it challenging for her to connect with her heritage. Similar to Samuel, who lost his heritage during the Holocaust, Leticia feels indifferent toward politics in the present day. Initially uninterested in Frank’s inquiry about Anita, she later becomes personally invested in Anita’s life, essentially taking on a motherly role after Marisol’s death.

Leticia serves as a grounded character with ties to the turmoil around the Southern US border. While lacking Selena’s dedication to politics, Leticia’s importance lies in reflecting a common apathy toward government affairs.

Her presence demonstrates how exposure to a crisis can inspire bystanders to take action. Once aware of Anita’s situation, Leticia becomes dedicated to helping her, reclaiming part of her heritage by cooking Salvadoran foods. Her role showcases the transformative power of crisis exposure, inspiring individuals to make a difference.

Samuel Adler

Samuel Adler, initially the protagonist, evolves into a sage or mentor figure as the narrative progresses. The story begins with Samuel as a Jewish child in Vienna during Nazi occupation, losing both parents and an aunt to the Holocaust.

Sent to England, he loses his connection to music, language, and heritage. Allende weaves Samuel’s displacement and loss into a broader connection between World War II turmoil in Europe, conflicts in Central and South America in the late 20th century, and the early 21st-century US border refugee crisis.

Reclaiming his love for music, Samuel moves to the US, marrying Nadine Leblanc and navigating a tumultuous relationship. Following Nadine’s death, Samuel forms a closer bond with Leticia, leading to the inclusion of Anita in their unconventional family. Samuel’s transition from protagonist to mentor underscores the importance of sharing wisdom gained through surviving trauma.

His role becomes a bridge between Anita’s struggles and those of Jewish communities under Nazi rule, emphasizing the significance of support and love in healing wounds. Passing down tokens of courage and lost music, Samuel becomes a guide for Anita’s journey to overcome trauma.

Anita Díaz

Anita Díaz, though not the main protagonist, is a central figure whose experiences shape the narrative. A Salvadoran girl brought to the US by her mother, Marisol Díaz, to escape a mass murderer named Carlos Gómez, Anita survives a car accident that claims her sister Claudia’s life and affects her eyesight.

After Marisol’s deportation, Anita navigates detention centers and foster homes before finding a home with Samuel and Leticia. While not driving the plot, Anita’s story symbolizes the challenges faced by children separated at the border, supporting the other characters focused on aiding her.

Anita’s role emphasizes the resilience of children and the power of imagination to thrive in difficult circumstances. Despite her impaired eyesight, she adapts to unfamiliar environments and shows a love for reading and music. Frustrated with setbacks in foster care, she exhibits a desire for growth and self-improvement. With support, Anita develops the ability to express herself and ends the novel with hope for overcoming trauma.

Anita’s powerful imagination creates Azabahar, a fictional land she visits with her guardian angel’s help. This imaginative haven contrasts her challenging early life, reflecting her acceptance that reality can be as pleasant as Azabahar. Anita’s interactions with her dead sister Claudia serve as a means to hold onto her memory, diminishing as she adjusts to a happier life with Samuel and Leticia.

Frank Angileri

Frank Angileri is a successful lawyer from California who used to represent wealthy and powerful individuals in the past in order to help them avoid punishment for their crimes. Frank comes from an Italian American family with strong ties to Sicily. Throughout the story, he notices the differences between his background and those of Mexican American and other Central American families.

Unlike some other characters in the novel, Frank starts off not caring much about the refugee crisis. Initially, his main focus is on trying to win over Selena. However, as the story progresses, he becomes more interested in Anita’s case and takes on other cases related to the immigration crisis.

Similar to characters from Samuel’s childhood, Frank doesn’t have a personal connection to the struggles of those migrating to the US. His perspective changes when he develops a relationship with Selena, and this connection motivates his transformation in the novel. Frank becomes a committed supporter of the Magnolia Project and shifts his focus from making money as a corporate lawyer to helping as many refugees as possible at the border.

Frank’s story suggests that forming connections and becoming allies in situations of systemic oppression, such as the immigration crisis, is crucial for meaningful change. Even if one doesn’t have a direct link to the crisis, they can still contribute and make a difference.

Which character did you like the most in the novel? Happy reading! ❤️