This is a tale about the extraordinary fate and survival of a young woman fleeing the cataclysm of civil war in Central America, and about the strangers who risk everything to rescue and mend her.
Kate Bowman, in her mid-forties, travels to Central America with her brother’s favorite son, a tall handsome 22-year-old engineering graduate from the University of Illinois. Bowman, a wildlife biologist from the upper Midwest, teaches literacy classes in the midst of a three-week long medical aid mission sponsored by healthcare teams from Chicago and California. The moment Andrew Gustafson sets foot in the village of Talapa, a young Mayan teen named Flora Enriquez follows his every move, enthralled by him. The small dark eyed girl demonstrates for Kate Bowman that she already reads, taught by a priest two years prior, even inheriting the deceased clergyman’s books.
Andrew quickly discovers his own project, planning and preparing for the installation of a hydroelectric turbine on the village stream to deliver electricity to the remote community in the land of volcanoes. He declines to travel home with his aunt and the rest of the aid party, insisting on remaining in the dangerous and beautiful jungle highlands. Sick at heart, Kate boards a plane to return to her home on northern Lake Michigan, terrified for her nephew left behind in a country convulsing in a murderous civil war.
Then the midnight call comes from the aid director in Chicago ten days after her return. Andrew has gone missing, never to be seen again. And Kate falls under the blaming cloud of her extended family forever.
Then, some years later, a wretchedly wounded Flora Enriquez unexpectedly reenters Kate’s life, the younger woman having fled the land of volcanoes that erupted in civil conflagration. The young Mayan, desirous of healing for her horrifying injuries and desperate to restore what remains of her family, reignites a fire in Kate to determine the fate her long lost nephew.
The harrowing journey for the two women on the healing and search mission, and employing a wounded Viet Nam veteran to help them, utterly consumes them.