- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
In the wake of personal tragedy, two people meet on a humanitarian mission in Peru. Christine is a shy, unadventurous woman whose fiancé broke off the engagement only a week before the wedding, and Paul is a former emergency room doctor whose glamorous lifestyle, stellar reputation, and beautiful fiancée are cruelly snatched from him one fateful, snowy Christmas Eve. Deep in the Amazon jungle, against a backdrop of poverty and ...
In the wake of personal tragedy, two people meet on a humanitarian mission in Peru. Christine is a shy, unadventurous woman whose fiancé broke off the engagement only a week before the wedding, and Paul is a former emergency room doctor whose glamorous lifestyle, stellar reputation, and beautiful fiancée are cruelly snatched from him one fateful, snowy Christmas Eve. Deep in the Amazon jungle, against a backdrop of poverty and heartbreak, they must confront their deepest fears and, together, learn to trust and love again.
Going to the jungle wasn't my idea. Had the thought actually crossed my mind, I would have immediately relegated it to that crowded portion of my brain where things I should do someday but thankfully never will are safely locked away to languish and die.
The idea was my daughter McKenna's. Three months before she graduated from high school, her sociology teacher, a graying, long-haired Haight-Ashbury throwback who had traded in his tie-dye T-shirts for tweed jackets with leather elbow patches presented to his class the opportunity to go to South America on a humanitarian mission. McKenna became obsessed with the idea and asked if I would accompany her on such an excursion -- kind of a daddy-daughter date in the Amazon.
I agreed. Not that I had any real desire or intention of going. I figured that she would soon graduate and her mind would be occupied with other concerns. I never believed it would really come about.
I should have known my daughter better. Four months later I found myself standing with her and a dozen of her former classmates in the Salt Lake City airport boarding a plane for Lima, Peru.
Unbeknownst to our little group, we had entrusted our lives to novices. We were the first group our expeditionary guides had actually led into the Amazon -- a fact we discovered twenty-four hours later deep in a jungle teeming with anacondas, jaguars and hand-sized spiders. Several times in the course of our expedition, our guide, an elderly Peruvian man, would suddenly stop, lay his machete at the foot of a tree, then climb above the jungle canopy for a look, each time descending with a somewhat perplexed expression.
After our third complete change of course I asked our guide (as tactfully as one being led through a jungle must) if he knew where he was going. In broken English the old man replied, "Yes, I have been here before..." then added, "when I was six."
During our hike we came upon the village of an Amazonian tribe, the Los Palmos. Overjoyed to learn that they were neither cannibals nor headhunters, we soon noticed that the population of the village included no young men, only women and the elderly. Our guide asked one of the natives where all the young men had gone.
"They have gone to town to kill the mayor," she replied.
"Why?" our guide asked.
"The mayor has said we can no longer cut the rainforest trees. We cannot live without the wood from the trees. So our men have gone to kill him."
"Do you think that's a good idea?" our guide asked.
The woman shrugged. "Probably not, but it's how things are done in the jungle."
There was something refreshing about her logic. I've never been overly fond of politics, and the image of painted tribesmen carrying spears and bows into town hall delighted me -- certainly something we don't see enough of in Salt Lake City. I still wonder how that all turned out.
Two days into our journey we ran out of food. For several days we lived on jungle fruit and the piranhas we caught in the river. (Piranha doesn't taste that bad -- kind of like chicken.)
I remember, as a boy, sitting spellbound through a Saturday afternoon matinee about a school of piranhas that terrorized a small jungle village. These Hollywood piranhas swam in conveniently slow-moving schools that cinematically frothed and bubbled on the surface, allowing the hero a chance to swim across the river and rescue a woman just inches ahead of the churning piranha death.
The piranhas we encountered in the jungle were nothing like that. First, Amazon piranhas are nearly as ubiquitous in the jungle as vegetation. Drop a fishing line in any jungle river and within seconds it will be bitten. Usually in half. Second, there are no warning bubbles.
Adding crocodiles, electric eels and leeches to the mix, we decided it best to just keep out of the water.
After several days of traveling we reached our destination, a small village where we established our clinic. The Quechuan natives were waiting for us.
The goal of our humanitarian mission was threefold: teach basic hygiene, fix teeth and correct vision. I was assigned to the latter. The optometrist who hiked in with us would conduct an eye examination, then hand me a written prescription for eyeglasses that I would attempt to fill from the bags of used eyewear we had packed into the jungle.
I remember one patient in particular. He was an elderly man, small featured and sun-baked, his skin as leathery as a baseball glove. And he had just one eye. As he was led from his exam to my station, the doctor handed me a blank prescription.
"What do I do with this?" I asked.
"Find the thickest lens you can find," he replied. "He's all but blind."
I knew the pair. Earlier, as I was organizing the glasses, I had come across a pair of lenses so thick I was certain they were bulletproof. I retrieved them and placed them on the little man's face. I soon learned that he had not just one eye, but also just one tooth as a broad smile blanketed his face. "!Puedo ver!" he exclaimed. I can see!
It was my daughter's job to tend the children as the doctors treated their parents. Indelibly etched in my mind is a sweet mental picture of my daughter as I looked out to see her running and screaming in mock terror from a throng of bare-chested little boys, who were laughing so hard they would occasionally fall to the ground holding their stomachs.
As we left the village, the children gathered around her and she hugged each of them. We sat together in the back of the bus, and she grew very quiet. After a few minutes I asked her what she had learned from this experience. She thought about it a moment, then said, "We love those whom we serve."
We moved on by boat up the muddy Rio Madre de Dios past the camps of the illicit gold miners scarring the forest with their bulldozers and sluices, eventually coming to a small clearing in the jungle. An airfield. Boarding a cargo plane, we flew south to Cuzco, where we took buses up into the Andes Mountains to a rundown hacienda.
The hacienda had been magnificent once, with elaborate tiles and intricate woodwork. It had a stone courtyard, a balcony and a bell tower. But the opulence of centuries ago was gone now, and what remained, rotting and looted, provided barely adequate shelter for the orphan boys it now housed. The place was called El Girasol -- the Sunflower -- and it was in the business of saving street children.
Among all the people we encountered in this mystical land, it was here that we met the most memorable: an American by the name of Paul Cook.
I was told by one of our guides that Paul Cook had once been a successful emergency room physician. Up until one Christmas Day when everything changed.
One night, after we had completed our day's tasks, we sat around a fire recounting the day's events as darkness closed in around us. Gradually our group retired to their sleeping quarters and I found myself alone with this quiet, intriguing man. We talked mostly about America; about the NBA, current movies, the Oscars and whom I thought would win the next presidential election. When I had satisfied his curiosity about current events, I asked him what prompted him to come to Peru. He just stared into the fire. Then he said, without looking at me, "That's a long story."
"No clocks in the jungle," I said.
Still gazing into the fire, he smiled at the use of one of his own favorite phrases. After a moment he said, "I'll show you."
He led me through the labyrinth of the hacienda to a small windowless cell with a wooden floor and a high ceiling. The room was as austere as any I had seen in the orphanage and was lit by a single lightbulb hanging from a cord from the exposed rafters. There were a few simple pieces of furniture: a small tin washbasin, a crate for a desk with a wooden chair and a bed that was just a mattress on box springs set on wooden blocks.
And there were books. Lots of books, visibly well-read and stacked in sloppy piles against the wall. I scanned the titles. Classics and bestsellers, Reader's Digest compilations, medical journals and crossword puzzles, biographies and thrillers. Books in Spanish as well as English. There were a few love stories.
On the wall above the books were two framed photographs: one of an elderly couple I guessed to be his parents, the other of a beautiful young woman whom I was to learn was named Christine. The most peculiar adornment to the room was a movie poster: a moody, black and indigo poster of a man kissing a woman beneath a title written in Italian: Cinema Paradiso.
Paul let me take in the surroundings for a moment before motioning for me to sit on the bed. I noticed that he had something in his hand -- a hand-sewn leather pouch. He untied its drawstrings and took from it a small toy soldier and handed it to me. Then he sat down next to me and commenced his tale. An hour or so later, when he was done, he looked weary and spent and I could sense the walls rising again in his demeanor, as if maybe he feared that he had shared too much. He restored the soldier to its pouch, hanging it by its drawstrings to a nail on the wall.
I asked if I could share his story. He showed little interest in my request but said he would sleep on it, a reply I also understood as my dismissal. Three days later, just a few hours before we were to fly back to Lima, he agreed.
It's been said, Seek not your destiny for it is seeking you. Paul Cook's story reveals, as well as any I suppose, that this is true. It was equally true for a young woman named Christine, who went to the jungle looking for anything but love.
This is their story.
Copyright © 2005 by Richard Paul Evans
Group Reading Guide
Richard Paul Evans
Enhance Your Book Club
Be sure to keep a scrapbook of your group's experiences!
RICHARD PAUL EVANS is the #1 best-selling author of The Christmas Box. His thirteen novels have each appeared on the New York Times bestseller list; there are more than thirteen million copies of his books in print. His books have been translated into more than 22 languages and several have been international best sellers. He is the winner of the 1998 American Mothers Book Award, two first place Storytelling World Awards for his children's books, and the 2005 Romantic Times Best Women Novel of the Year Award. Evans received the Washington Times Humanitarian of the Century Award and the Volunteers of America National Empathy Award for his work helping abused children. He is the founder and CEO of BookWise, an international direct sales business. Evans lives in
Group Reading Guide
Richard Paul Evans
Enhance Your Book Club
Be sure to keep a scrapbook of your group's experiences!
Posted October 27, 2009
While reading the other reviews, I think the best part is left out. The Sunflower orphanage in the book really exists to this day...it is amazing. They literally save the kids from the streets and they are giving them a new life. I think that is the best part of the story. I now want to go help in places on earth that are not as fortunate as we in the US are. It's a great read for anyone who has considered missions work. Southern Cross Humanitarian makes trips here alot. Read the book and go help save lives...make a difference!
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 16, 2009
This ia a wonderful book to read. The whole story made me realize how fortunate we are to live here in the USA but also how much we take for granted.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 23, 2014
Posted March 23, 2014
Posted January 31, 2014
Posted August 27, 2013
Shards of transparent crystals are found aroubd here. Watch your wings, the gems are sharp. A distance away, there is a tiny wall of the transparent stuff. Its pointed and you can enter the brick flower from here. Be careful with your wings here.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 17, 2013
Posted January 14, 2013
A good read about rebuilding when you lose hope, there is always someone there for you at the perfect time. Evans puts it all together. Paul In the wake of personal tragedy, two people meet on a humanitarian mission in Peru. Christine is a shy, unadventurous woman whose fiancee broke off the engagement only a week before the wedding, and Paul is a former emergency room doctor whose glamorous lifestyle, stellar reputation, and beautiful fiancee are cruelly snatched from him one fateful, snowy Christmas Eve. Deep in the Amazon jungle, against a backdrop of poverty and heartbreak, they must confront their deepest fears and, together, learn to trust and love again.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 2, 2012
Posted May 13, 2012
Posted December 6, 2011
Posted October 14, 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and had a hard time taking putting it down. If you are looking for a weekend read where you just curl up with a romantic book. This is the book I would recommend for you!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 10, 2011
Posted October 24, 2009
This book inspired me to go to Peru and see the sights that the author wrote about. I am so glad I read it! Machu Picchu is incredible. I did not climb to the top of Huayna Picchu, like they did in the book, because we didn't have time after our tour. My son and I did, however, do the 1 day Inca Trail that starts from the 104K marker in order to get to Machu Picchu. It was sureal to just hop off the train in the middle of nowhere and watch it leave us there. It was a tough climb due to the altitude but it was so worth it! We chewed coca leaves and drank coca tea while we were there and didn't have any altitude sickness at all. We also tried the cuy while we were in Cusco like they did in the book - it tasted like roasted duck. I don't remember the book mentioning the national drink, Pisco Sour, but we tried that too, a few times! We didn't go to the Peruvian jungle but we did go to the jungle in Ecuador. It was exactly like the author described, we even stayed in a lodge very much like the one in the book. We made sure to take malaria pills!! I know everyone else wrote their reviews about the characters and the storyline in the book but the places those characters went were so interesting to me that I just had to go and see it myself... Great book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 13, 2009
This book was a very nice book to read. It was a sweet book without all the sex. It was about a woman moving on and finding a love and a mission at the same time helping another find his way back to living.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 12, 2009
Posted December 13, 2007
Posted December 17, 2006
This book was full of characters you can relate to and a wonderful plot you can just dream about. It might not have been up to par with the high standards which we seem to put with all his books, but definently an extremely suspence filled book. It took me a while to finish, but 'The Sunshine' will remain a favorite of mine.
0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 25, 2006
Again Richard Paul Evans has captivated me with a story. I read this book rather fast, because it was so hard to put down. This year it will be Christmas gifts for all my book reading friends and family. This is a heart warming story and a bit of a surprise is in store for you. I think it would make a lovely movie, not only is the story great, but it would raise awareness, tooWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.