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Five great books set in BOLIVIA

24th February 2020

Bolivia is the latest place for us to visit in our ‘Great books set in…’ series. Five great books set in Bolivia.

Bolivians die with rotted lungs so that the world may consume cheap tin” – Eduardo Galeano, Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.

Into the Jungle by Erica Ferencik

Lily Bushwold thought she’d found the antidote to endless foster care and group homes: a teaching job in Cochabamba, Bolivia. As soon as she could steal enough cash for the plane, she was on it.

When the gig falls through and Lily stays in Bolivia, she finds bonding with other broke, rudderless girls at the local hostel isn’t the life she wants either. Tired of hustling and already world-weary, crazy love finds her in the form she least expected: Omar, a savvy, handsome local man who’d abandoned his life as a hunter in Ayachero—a remote jungle village—to try his hand at city life.

When Omar learns that a jaguar has killed his four-year-old nephew in Ayachero, he gives Lily a choice: Stay alone in the unforgiving city, or travel to the last in a string of ever-more-isolated river towns in the jungles of Bolivia. Thirty-foot anaconda? Puppy-sized spiders? Vengeful shamans with unspeakable powers? Love-struck Lily is oblivious. She follows Omar to this ruthless new world of lawless poachers, bullheaded missionaries, and desperate indigenous tribes driven to the brink of extinction. To survive, Lily must navigate the jungle–its wonders as well as its terrors—using only her wits and resilience.

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A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism by Peter Mountford

On his first assignment for a rapacious hedge fund, Gabriel embarks to Bolivia at the end of 2005 to ferret out insider information about the plans of the controversial president-elect.

If Gabriel succeeds, he will get a bonus that would make him secure for life. Standing in his way are his headstrong mother, herself a survivor of Pinochet’s Chile, and Gabriel’s new love interest, the president’s passionate press liaison.

Caught in a growing web of lies and questioning his own role in profiting from an impoverished people, Gabriel sets in motion a terrifying plan that could cost him the love of all those he holds dear.

In the tradition of Martin Amis, Joshua Ferris, and Sam Lipsyte – set against the stunning mountainous backdrop of La Paz and interspersed with Bolivia’s sad history of stubborn survival – Peter Mountford examines the critical choices a young man makes as his world closes in on him.

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American Visa by Juan de Recacoechea

Armed with fake papers, a handful of gold nuggets and a snazzy custom-made suit, an unemployed schoolteacher with a singular passion for detective fiction sets out from small-town Bolivia on a desperate quest for an American visa – his best hope for escaping his painful past and reuniting with his grown son in Miami.

American Visa is beautifully written, atmospheric, and stylish in the manner of Chandler … a smart, exotic crime fiction offering.”

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I Am a Taxi by Deborah Ellis

For twelve-year-old Diego and his family, home is the San Sebastian Women’s Prison in Cochabamba, Bolivia. His parents farmed coca, a traditional Bolivian medicinal plant, until they got caught in the middle of the government’s war on drugs.

Diego s adjusted to his new life. His parents are locked up, but he can come and go: to school, to the market to sell his mother’s hand-knitted goods, and to work as a ‘taxi’, running errands for other prisoners.

But then his little sister runs away, earning his mother a heavy fine. The debt and dawning realization of his hopeless situation make him vulnerable to his friend Mando’s plan to make big money, fast.

Soon, Diego is deep in the jungle, working as a virtual slave in an illegal cocaine operation. As his situation becomes more and more dangerous, he knows he must take a terrible risk if he ever wants to see his family again.

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Lost in the Jungle: A Harrowing True Story of Survival by Yossi Ghinsberg

Four travelers meet in Bolivia and set off into the heart of the Amazon rainforest, but what begins as a dream adventure quickly deteriorates into a dangerous nightmare, and after weeks of wandering in the dense undergrowth, the four backpackers split up into two groups.

But when a terrible rafting accident separates him from his partner, Yossi is forced to survive for weeks alone against one of the wildest backdrops on the planet.

Stranded without a knife, map, or survival training, he must improvise shelter and forage for wild fruit to survive. As his feet begin to rot during raging storms, as he loses all sense of direction, and as he begins to lose all hope, he wonders whether he will make it out of the jungle alive.

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Andrew for the TripFiction Team

Have you been to Bolivia? Do you have a favourite read set there? Have we missed an obvious choice? Please let us know in the comments below!

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750 - 3000 words with strong 'sense of place' theme

Short story, travelogue, or memoir

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Entries close 15th November 2020