Two women — two centuries apart — discover the limits of their good intentions.

From The Washington Post:Alvarez_1

SAVING THE WORLD: A Novel by Julia Alvarez. Julia Alvarez isn’t afraid to ask hard questions. Saving the World , as the title suggests, confronts one that’s troubled every great religion: how to deal with social inequity. How can a person of sensitivity and conscience justify being one of “the lucky ones,” as Alvarez puts it, when so many people elsewhere in the world haven’t got the means to live, let alone “to be a human being”? Who can be saved, and how?

Alma Rodriguez Huebner, the heroine of this novel, is a writer without a story. Drowning in midlife depression, she’s years behind on a book she’s unable to write, and she’s struggling to meet the demands of increasingly dependent but distant parents. The bonds of friendship and marriage seem more tenuous to her by the day. Readers’ own politics will probably determine whether Alma sounds like a troubled person of principle or a whiny bore; she seems to feel that guilt is a sine qua non of American citizenship, but she’s articulate about it. She realizes how much of her persona has been formed by meeting or rejecting others’ expectations. But self-knowledge is not enough to make life meaningful for her.

More here.