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Bringing the Boy Home    by N. A. Nelson order for
Bringing the Boy Home
by N. A. Nelson
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2008 (2008)

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Boys approaching their thirteenth birthday in the fictional, secretive Takunami tribe ritually prepare to face a tribal ceremony - soche seche tente, a sixth sense test, in the treacherous Amazonian jungle. Survival proves their worth and results in formal acceptance into the tribe. Passing the test allows each to meet their paho (father), previously unknown to them. Attempting to find the father before the test is passed is punishable by death.

Twelve-year-old Luka lives with the tribe, where his maha (mother) diligently tends to his training: 'My name is Luka. I do not know who my father is. Gods willing, I will know in only a few more settings of the sun.' Because of a foot deformity, Tirio was shunned by the tribe: 'My name is Tirio. I do not know who my father is. When Sara found me, I was floating down the Amazon in a 'suwata curara' - a corpse canoe.' American anthropologist Sara found Tirio on the river, adopted him, and raised him in the United States. As Tirio's thirteenth birthday nears, he experiences visions, calling him back to the Amazon. Tirio tells us: 'Takunami males are born three times: once out of their Mahas' bodies into the world, once out of their boyhood into manhood, and once out of their physical bodies into the spirit world. We enter each phase as we entered the first one - naked.' Tirio accompanies Sara on a research trip back to the Amazon.

Through flashbacks, Nina Nelson alternates chapters, following Luka and Tirio, the same yet different. The reader is drawn in by her vibrant descriptions of landscapes in the Amazon and Miami, Florida; actions are so well-defined, one readily imagines 'a coucan as it calls to its mate ... a twig snaps ... my heart drums so loudly ... the bright orange ball of sun drops into the horizon'. The author muses: 'In researching my novel, there was one book that I kept returning to for information and inspiration. It was Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice: An Ethnobotanist Searches for New Medicines in the Amazon Rain Forest written by Mark J. Plotkin. Through Dr. Plotkin I found ACT, whose mission is to work in partnership with indigenous people in conserving biodiversity, health, and culture in tropical America. This is a mission I knew I wanted to support.' A portion of the sales of Bringing The Boy Home is donated to ACT.

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