Black Lawrence Press, Jun 2010, $18.00
In Iowa, humiliated and disgusted with her wandering spouse Eliot’s womanizing, artist Catherine Barnes travels to Guatemala to get away from him while she begins her new picture book project. Their troubled teenage son Isaac, who flunked eighth grade, accompanies her to the Central American country.
Wondering how he will survive unwired for the month he is to spend in this back water land, Isaac works at his paternal Aunt Zelda's handicrafts store while Catherine seeks subjects for her new book in the Mayan village of Todos Santos in the mountains. Isaac does dumb things leading to an accident and his kidnapping. At the same time, the mountain villagers distrust the outsider who they fear will steal their babies. With the help of tour guide Oswaldo, Catherine handles the townsfolk hostility and Isaac’s disappearance.
This is an intriguing Ugly American tale of a mother and son in a foreign impoverished country. The cast is solid especially the indigenous population while the son grows up fast but his American mom appears a bit too detached from the swirl that engulfs them. Still the insight into Guatemala is super and a great twist re Isaac enhances a wonderful tale as readers will hope Catherine learns the intimacy of the “Pulsera” rather than just return to the American heartland to die a slow death of ennui.