The Puma Years by Laura Coleman

The Puma Years by Laura Coleman

Summary:

Laura was in her early twenties and directionless when she quit her job to backpack in Bolivia. Fate landed her at a wildlife sanctuary on the edge of the Amazon jungle where she was assigned to a beautiful and complex puma named Wayra. Wide-eyed, inexperienced, and comically terrified, Laura made the scrappy, make-do camp her home. And in Wayra, she made a friend for life.

They weren’t alone, not with over a hundred quirky animals to care for, each lost and hurt in their own way: a pair of suicidal, bra-stealing monkeys, a frustrated parrot desperate to fly, and a pig with a wicked sense of humor. The humans too were cause for laughter and tears. There were animal whisperers, committed staff, wildly devoted volunteers, handsome heartbreakers, and a machete-wielding prom queen who carried Laura through. Most of all, there was the jungle—lyrical and alive—and there was Wayra, who would ultimately teach Laura so much about love, healing, and the person she was capable of becoming.

Set against a turbulent and poignant backdrop of deforestation, the illegal pet trade, and forest fires, The Puma Years explores what happens when two desperate creatures in need of rescue find one another.

My Review:

There is a quote on the front cover by Jane Goodall and she says, “You will love this book” and indeed I really did. I read The Puma Years (Little A) by Laura Coleman in one sitting. Laura’s memoir is so inspirational. When Laura was in her twenties, she walked away from her job packed her backpack and headed off into the Amazon jungle.

It is a brave thing to do just to walk away from your job and head off to Bolivia but what happened next is simply breathtaking. Two months into her three- month trip to Bolivia, Laura found her way to an animal sanctuary deep in the jungle to look after animals that were part of the worldwide illegal pet trade, this would change her life forever.

Within the sanctuary there were around 100 animals of all kinds to look after, many will never be wild again so they will spend their days within the sanctuary. But when Laura arrived it was the camps living conditions that at first would challenge her. Suffice to say that I will not go into detail, but many would not be able to cope with the conditions let alone the Mosquitoes and rats. But no sooner had Laura had arrived than it was time to introduce her to a stunning but also a complex Puma called Wayra. Coming face to face with a puma must have been scary beyond words. But this was to become a relationship and a friendship that would last. It takes time for a puma to get to know you and the trust and bond would be so strong.

But this is not just about Wayra, because you get to meet so many other of the quirky animals of the sanctuary. There is the pig with a sense of humour and a pair of monkeys that seem to have a thing stealing bras from the living quarters.

Deep in the jungle there is so much to discover, and it was here that Laura found Wayra and it was Wayra found Laura and together they seem to help each other. It is so beautifully written and through Laura’s words you can almost get a sense of the sights and sounds of the jungle.

When you purchase a copy of The Puma Years by Laura Coleman proceeds will be going to support Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi

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Fragments of my Father: A memoir of madness, love and being a carer by Sam Mills

Fragments of my Father: A memoir of madness, love and being a carer by Sam Mills

Summary:

My life had been suspended, as though I had inhaled and was still waiting to let out that gasp of breath. I set aside my dreams for a future time when life might be normal again. But that night, on my mother’s birthday, as I sat and watched the sky turn from blue to black, I wondered for the first time if it ever would …

There were holes in Sam Mills’s life when she was growing up – times when her dad was just absent, for reasons she didn’t understand. As she grew older, she began to make up stories about the periods when he wasn’t around: that he’d been abducted, spirited away and held captive by a mysterious tribe who lived at the bottom of the garden. The truth – that he suffers from a rare form of paranoid schizophrenia, and was hospitalised intermittently – slowly came into focus, and that focus became pin-sharp in 2012, when Sam’s mother died and Sam was left as his primary carer.

In this powerful, poignant memoir Sam triangulates her own experience with the stories of two other carers, one she admires and one, on some days, she fears she might become: Leonard Woolf, husband to Virginia and F Scott Fitzgerald, husband to Zelda, and a man whose personality made him ill-equipped – in a great many ways – to be a carer for his troubled wife.

A mesmerising blend of literary biography and memoir The Fragments of My Father is a compelling and moving account of what it means to be a carer.

My Review:

I am extremely grateful to have been asked to review the shortlisted books on The 2020 Barbellion Prize shortlist. The Fragments of My Father (Fourth Estate) by Sam Mills is an extremely beautifully written memoir about caring for her father. Inside there are some very wise words and about her own life suspended as she cares for a loved one.

Sam Mills by profession is an author and is also the co-founder and MD of indie publisher Dodo Ink. When her mother died in 2012 Sam became the carer for her father, who was suffering from a rare form of schizophrenia. This meant putting her life plans on hold while she became carer with the financial implications that go with being a carer for a loved one as well as the challenges of this illness.

Through Fragments of My Father we see Sam’s own personal journey, but also she tells us of others who have become the primary carer and as Sam is an author she shares stories of Leonard Woolf the husband of Virginia Woolf and F. Scott Fitzgerald husband of Zelda who also became carers themselves.

As a primary carer what many do not realise is the loneliness that goes with being a carer and at times being cut off from the outside world as well as the lack of financial support, Sam does make the case that the government needs to step up to help those who have become primary carers.

For anyone who has been in a similar position this poignant memoir will be like a supporting arm around you. Sam’s writing about caring for her father is brave but beautiful.

Fragments of My Father is profound and important, as Sam points out that she was not sure about writing this, I like many are pleased she did.

416 Pages.

I am extremely grateful to Cat Mitchell, Fourth Estate and the Barbellion Prize review copy of Fragments of my Father: A memoir of madness, love and being a carer by Sam Mills

Fragments of my Father: A memoir of madness, love and being a carer by Sam Mills

is published by Fourth Estate and was published on 9th July 2020 and is available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org