Reviewed by Claudia Robinson

“I think tonight the purbakan may trouble you. For months, the birds have been singing about Sulegoa, about how beautiful this golden woman is, but because you were so sad, so closed, the purbakan didn’t notice you. Today your body opened like a flower and now the purbakan can see how beautiful you are. They will not be satisfied with tree women tonight.” ~ Cerafino to Jenny, Seducing the Spirits, by Louise Young

Succulent, expressive, brave, sensual and hypnotic are only the first of many titillating words that come to mind after reading, no, experiencing, Louise Young’s Seducing the Spirits. I had no idea what I was in for when I tore the wrapping away from the sleek tapestry of the book’s cover and devoured the first page.

Perhaps it was best that way, for the pleasure each page revealed, and the amazingly detailed narrative of a woman’s solo journey, both physical and mental, into unknown and completely distinctive territory, was a welcome and praiseworthy surprise. I love, love, love this book!

Jenny Dunfree is a graduate student of tropical ornithology. After a brief ‘affair’ with her superior, she suddenly finds herself near the Columbian border, deep in the rain forest, on an elusive quest to find, watch and document the habits of nesting harpy eagles. Alone, with little more than the clothes on her back, some pots and pans and the star filled night as a roof over her head, Jenny finds herself confused, bewildered and abandoned, forced to fend for herself, her rights and at times, even, her very life.

To make matters even more interesting, Jenny is ordered to attend weekly meetings and community gatherings at the neighboring Kuna Village. The village’s customs, language and adversity to outsiders making an already exacting and rigorous existence even more precarious. Gradually, over time, and with infinite patience, (trial and error!) Jenny makes a friend. She finds comfort in and gains understanding of the Kuna people with the help of Pedro, the only one besides her that speaks English. Through Pedro, Jenny forges unique relationships with other members of the Kuna Village, and each one supplies her with valuable and different information about an anagogic and ancient ethnology.

Through the weeks, Jenny finds herself immersed deeply in the Kuna world, becoming attuned to the thrum and pulse of the earth and learning the natural order of things that only living simply, sagely and with eyes wide open, brings about. Through the lives of her new friends, Jenny is able to see the outside world and its invasive intrusion, from a completely new and utterly disturbing perspective. Who is the true outsider, in the end? Who chooses which path is right? Who are we to judge anyone?

Louise writes with breathtaking descriptive clarity, beauty and rhythm. I could smell the air, taste the sweetness of ripe banana on my tongue, and hear the beat of eagle wings and their plaintive, mournful cries in the canopy of lush green above. I could imagine Jenny’s fear, her hunger, and feel her passion, her desire to know and understand, and her frustration is recanted achingly and bewitchingly.

When she fell in love, I fell in love.

Louise has managed to weave a spell of a story that this reader won’t soon forget and highly recommends to anyone looking for something with substance, passion, guts, sass and grit. KUDOS! Seducing the Spirits is a linguistic orgasm. I need a cigarette.

For more information, please visit The Permanent Press website.

Claudia lives on Cape Cod with her husband and two children. She entertains her passion for reading in between providing services to help empower and improve the lives of low-income residents by sharing resources and self-advocacy skills.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Permanent Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.