This is a story of sisters and travel. A journey by train with Auntie Bette in a sweetie jar leads to one thing and another. But neither Kate nor Maggie expected to find themselves in a dugout canoe travelling up the Waspuk and Pispis rivers in the Nicaraguan rainforest...
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By Matthew Weinreb
Nov 24, 2009
This book is a delight from start to finish. Maggie refers to 'travels with my Aunt' several times in the book, and indeed, you feel as though your are traveling in the company of Kate as you read. A more apt title might be 'travels with my sister'! The delightful juxtapositions between eccentric family members hiding gin in the oven in remote Scotland and the marvelously well-observed, very much off the beaten track, travel writing enhances the underlying message of the book and leaves us wondering at our soft and easy lives. At the same time the book is witty and un-put-downable. I read it over two days... This book has been created largely to draw attention to the terrible lives led by so many (in particular children) in Nicaragua, and Maggie is generously donating her profits to that cause. Buy and read the book, you won't be disappointed.
You don't always expect books on Lulu to be this good. Rice and Beans tells the story of two sisters and their travels in Nicaragua, interspersed with some quirky family history (the high octane Aunt Bette and the equally curious Kitty who took up with a Pole). At the core of the story are the two sisters, Kate and Maggie, and their relationship to the Sandinista Sampson family, particularly Rigo, the dedicated doctor, who takes them under his wing and eventually up the Pispis river to Musawas, home to the remote Mayagna tribe. In between kate and Maggie encounter a fascinating set of characters, including Lenin, Rigo's cousin, several parrots and Claudia, hotel keeper and market butcher. There are also the tourists, the shoeshine boys and American academic who's doing his best. The book is a lot more than a travelogue, though you could do worse than follow the sisters if you plan to visit Nicaragua. What comes across is the author's clear love of the country and her sense of outrage... More > at what the Americans did to the emerging democracy during the Contra period. The final section of the book, devoted to the very uncomfortable trip to Musawas (eight hours in a dugout canoe, over rapids, sometimes in the pouring rain with snakes dangling from the trees overhead), is a sad reminder of how development can go so wrong. The Mayagna people have been ill served by pious Christians and well meaning, but unthinking NGOs. For instance, one NGO donated farm animals, but failed to provide fencing, so that the village is now awash not just with mud but manure as well. The writing is taught and never overlength. Maggie Barclay has a neat turn of phrase and a sardonic wit which she puts to good purpose, describing her three trips to Nicaragua. Rice and Beans leaves you wanting more, which is always a good sign. One final thing - all profits from the book are being donated to two small Nicaraguan organisations providing desperately needed help to women and children.< Less
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