editor's choice


The only part of her that stands out are her eyes, which are as green as the tops of those paddle-shaped plants, and her nose, pink as the tip of a sunset. She looks at us for a long, silent moment. So long that I think she might not move at all, and when she does finally leap from the top of the platform, landing so gracefully it’s almost like she’s not moved, I step back with respect.

She prowls towards us and I’m staring, so overwhelmed, that when Jane slides both her arms carefully through the fence, I almost yelp … What is she thinking? … Then she’s licking. Actually licking Jane. And Jane’s face is transcendent.”

the first meeting with Wayra

When I first heard about Laura Coleman’s The Puma Years, I immediately wanted to read it. Not just because it sounded exciting and the cover is beautiful, but because it resonated – I’d done exactly the same thing as Coleman, jacked in a job in my twenties to travel around Latin America. I did get to Bolivia, even went to the area Coleman so enchantingly brings to life, but, alas, didn’t volunteer in an animal sanctuary, nor, sadly, walk big cats. Months later, I was at a supper, where I sat next to a woman who was waxing lyrical about Comunidad Inti Wara Yassa, the same sanctuary about which Coleman writes.

This is a beautiful book, one that can be taken on several levels – as an adventure travel book; as a love story between Coleman and Puma Wayra, the land and the people; as an exploration of a country in trouble, dealing with deforestation, illegal animal trafficking and so much more.

Coleman’s writing reminds me of the travel books I used to pour over so avidly when I was a kid, desperate to read about foreign locales. Her lively evocation of people and place make it difficult to put this book down and the characters, animals, landscape are all drawn with a careful but vivid hand. I could imagine waking up completely disorientated that first day, only to find a small, angry monkey staring at me, the ludicrousness of seeing a pig running around with a red bra in the Amazon jungle, that first heart in mouth moment of meeting Wayra.

The Puma Years is a lovely book, a lovely read, whether you’ve been to the area or not. It’s also a great story, not just of love, but of hope. And, to my mind, one can never have too much of either. Highly, highly recommended.   

The Puma Years | Laura Coleman | Little a | hardback | 2021 |

Proceeds from THE PUMA YEARS support Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi

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Acknowledgements: All text quotes from the book © 2021 by Laura Coleman. This review is published as part of the publisher virtual book tour. Many thanks to lovely Anne Cater for arranging it and to the publisher for sending a. review copy and the above jacket image. All views expressed are our own. All rights reserved. Please check out the other great reviewers on the tour.

See also:By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Remembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’; ‘We should all be feminists’; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

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