It’s been a couple of years since Alexander Cold and Nadia Santos shared their first adventure in the Amazon, and in the interim Nadia has moved from South America where she was born to New York City to live with Kate, Alex’s grandmother, so she can go to school. With Alex still living in California with his parents they don’t see each other any more than they did before, but they have stayed in constant touch via e-mails, and their friendship has grown far deeper than is usual between a teenaged boy and girl.
When Kate receives an assignment to report on a new type of safari being offered to tourists in Kenya by the wildlife magazine she writes for, she and the two young friends are already overseas, so she makes it a condition of her acceptance that they accompany her. And this makes their final adventure in Isabel Allende’s celebrated trilogy.
Initially the trip appears to be rather tame in comparison to their previous times travelling together. The new safari is adventurous enough, as it has the tourists being ferried around by elephants, and allows them unprecedented access to the wild life of the great plains, but its relatively safe. All of which makes the warning Nadia and Alex received from a Voodoo priestess to never separate lest they face death at the hands of a three headed ogre prior to beginning the safari all the more incongruous. The only danger they encountered on the safari was from a troupe of mandrills who trashed their camp after breaking into Kate’s store of medicinal vodka.
However, fate in the shape of a missionary searching for missing companions changes their plans just prior to their departure from Kenya. Agreeing to help Brother Fernando in his quest, they start their journey to find the missing fellow missionaries. This journey results in the airplane they were travelling in crash landing deep in the jungle. It turns out that the closest village is ruled by a couple of army officers who have established their own personal fiefdom. They controll the local population of pygmies and Bantu tribes people through threats and violence. By holding their women and children hostage, King Kosongo and commandant Mbembele, force the pygmy tribesmen to carry out illegal hunts for elephant tusks which they in turn sell to smugglers.
It soon becomes obvious that the missionaries Brother Fernando is searching for were murdered by the two despots. When Alex, Nadia, Kate, and their companions are made “guests” in the village they realize the only way they can save themselves is if they can convince the locals to rise up against their rulers. Alex and Nadia manage to escape the village and join up with a hunting party of pygmy men – they have a day within which to capture an elephant or their children will face reprisals. The challenge for Alex and Nadia is to find a way to help the men regain their confidence sufficiently to be able to stand up for themselves against their enemies.
The pygmies are ancestor worshipers and believe in the power of the spirit world. Alex and Nadia spend a night in their burial grounds in an attempt to communicate with those who have gone before in order to find the means to restore the people’s pride and sense of self. While the experience they have may border on the supernatural in some people’s eyes, they learn not only about the pygmies, but gain a deeper understanding of their own fears and aspirations.
Isabel Allende has written a novel which presents a balanced view of the world and she has taught valuable lessons about understanding, tolerance, love, friendship and team-work.
If you’ve missed out Forest of Pygmies, this is time to grab and read it!!!