A Place in the WorldA Place in the World by Cinda Crabbe MacKinnon

A Place in the World tells the story one woman’s life from the 1960s onward.

First, the positives: The author creates a beautiful setting (she could write for Condé Nast!). She makes the reader feel like we’re on an adventure vacation in the Colombian Andes getting an authentic taste of life on a remote coffee finca located adjacent to the rain forest. While I think the book perhaps could have done with a tad less emphasis on botany, the narrative descriptions do lay the groundwork for a gripping and believable finale. I could feel bugs crawling on my skin; felt my own mounting panic as I envisioned myself in a similar situation to Alicia (the protagonist). I could feel her hunger and disorientation, shared her dread of spending a night alone, lost in darkness. MacKinnon masterfully blurs the lines between one “dimension” and the next—the sort of spiritual melding that occurs in any life-and-death face-off against nature and her mysterious energies. Because of this, Alicia’s last-minute epiphany regarding her companion (Peter) was both touching and convincing. If the story lagged a bit in the middle, the climatic ending should not be missed.

Personally, I found the occasional point-of-view shifts somewhat jarring and confusing—if intentional. Mainly Alicia is telling her story; then, out of the blue, here and there we hear from the father-in-law (Felipe) and I forget who all else—even the dog! That said, it was an inventive (if odd) creative choice, and I admit I rather enjoyed getting inside that mangy old mutt’s head as he added a sweet and enchanting aspect to the story.

Cinda MacKinnon’s experience living in Latin America obviously gave her insight to craft a picturesque backdrop of Colombian life and culture, into which she skillfully wove a multifaceted tale imbued with personal, societal and political shades. All in all, a worthwhile and enjoyable read.

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