Good fiction books are ones that entertain, while at the same time leave the reader with a better understanding of the truths they are trying to portray. Plant Teacher by Caroline Alethia does both. This book is set in modern day Bolivia, a stunningly quirky and contradictory Andean nation that receives very little attention in the modern press or media.
The book takes the principal character, Martin Banzer, through a journey of personal discovery as he battles the demons of poor decisions and tries to make peace with his mixed Bolivian/US heritage. The book is not political; but it is impossible to address current day Bolivia without addressing some of the political upheaval that has defined that desperately poor country. Neither is the book ethnographic; yet an honest book about Bolivia cannot ignore the ethnic and cultural tension that is at the root of so many of their challenges.
Above all, the book is honest. Like Banzer, it is clear that the author -- who herself spent time Bolivia -- was forced like so many Americans who live overseas to make sense of their experiences and the things they witnessed. Alethia chose to do this via the powerful medium of fiction. For those interested in Latin America and Bolivia, or who just want a book that will challenge them to think deeper, Plant Teacher is a must read.