KIRKUS Reviews – A Place in the World

In this novel set in the ’70s and early ’80s, a free-spirited American girl struggles to fit in on a coffee plantation in the Colombian Andes.

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Debut novelist MacKinnon tells the story of Alicia Collier, a young woman with no particular home and little connection to her family… Alicia has lived all over the world, especially South America … By the time she begins college in Virginia, she has spent more time outside the U.S. than in it, so it’s no surprise when she decides to follow her Colombian boyfriend, Jorge, to his country for the summer…  Alicia rapidly becomes a part of the Carvallo coffee farm and, after a series of calamities, ends up running it alone… That is, until Peter Shalmers arrives from America. .. As he accepts hospitality from the Carvallo family, he and Alicia gravitate toward each other. An aspiring botanist, Alicia (takes) Peter on tours of the forest, and her affection for him grows beyond her control. In the midst of this familial and romantic drama are many compelling, detailed descriptions of the rain forest. MacKinnon brings to life the forest’s flora and fauna, the ominous and ever-present wildlife, and the tribal people hiding in the forest. The author’s meticulous detail and knowledge of the locale bring a unique richness to the novel…through the glory of the surroundings she describes.

A quiet romantic adventure well-suited for those who enjoy travelogues.


Kirkus Reviews is a well-respected book review magazine that has been around for at least 80 years. Librarians and bookstores rely on their critiques and getting a positive review is coveted by writers so I am delighted to receive this  review.  I also received a review on Goodreads from a Canadian writer that has me glowing:

(excerpted) This well-written, riveting plot captures strong elements of friendship, love, freedom, perseverance and endurance amid all the physical and emotional challenges, heartache and pain. The pages of this novel are filled with the beauty, the grandeur, the sights and sounds of nature in the Andean cloud forest.  whitefaces
The characters are well-developed, their personalities adding depth and dimension to a story that’s heartwarming and emotionally-riveting. Alicia is an educated, lovely young woman with a soft-heart, who’s determined, capable and stubborn. She befriends Carmen, the Carvallo’s housekeeper, an illiterate, earthy Colombian woman with strong maternal instincts . Together they form an unshakeable bond that transcends class and nationality…The strength of this story not only lies in a well-developed plot and characters but in the sense of historical, political and economic change that affects Colombia and its people in the late 1900’s. It’s a fascinating and moving story…see the full review on review.

I feel like here is a reader that really understands what the book is about and nothing is more rewarding to an author – but she went the extra mile and wrote so eloquently.  Thank you Wendy from Ontario.  It has been a good week!

Why do we Read Fiction?

Story tellers have been honored since the beginning of human history – picture our early ancestors sitting around a fire being entertained and enlightened.

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A Section of my Bookshelf

Reading is such a pleasurable pursuit I could read for hours and sometimes do – ah but “had we but world enough, and time1”.  No one ever tells a kid to get their nose out of a book (do they?).  This seems too good to be true –that reading is not even a pleasure we need to feel guilty about indulging. 9780143038092_p0_v2_s114x16677203

I’ve often wondered why reading is praised as an intellectual pursuit while watching TV is generally considered a waste of time – not that I don’t agree in general – but mostly for the self-serving reason that I love to read.  However I have learned plenty from watching TV.  There are the nature programs, the History channel and Masterpiece Theatre (enhances9780312427085_p0_v2_s114x166 my knowledge of European history) and – I admit – pure mindless escapism.  And yet reading wins out.

The only criticism I can think of is that reading is a solitary pursuit, but even that can be countered.  Reading connects us to other people and can make us feel we are not alone in our experiences.  When we finish a good story we want to share it with others – hence the ubiquitous proliferation of book clubs and online reading groups.  Some like to read the best sellers list for the enjoyment of the discussion at the next party.

People read for many reasons. Books may be practical learning experiences, interesting, ethical, or just plain entertaining. They take us to other parts of the world and let us understand other cultures. Books can make us want to visit places – or just experience a place we may never have the opportunity to go to see.  And of course we read for escapism and let our imaginations soar – witness the enduring popularity of JRR Tolkien’s writings.

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I think perhaps the best thing about reading is that it teaches us about humanity.  John Steinbeck immediately comes to mind. He taught us compassion for the wayward son who longs for acceptance in East of Eden, the retarded man in Of Mice and Men, the prostitutes and Mack the hobo in Cannery Row and the suffering immigrants from the Dust Bowl in Grapes of Wrath.

What do you enjoy reading?  Why do like that genre?

How do you choose what to read next? Have you visited places because a book made you want to?

What are you reading now?

  1. Andrew Marvell