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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
¿Eres tú?: A History of Lonquimay by Frank Tainter is situated in the Araucarian region of south-central Chile, incorporating themes of ethnobotany, indigenous knowledge, cultural history, and love. The story is centered around Robert, a young man from Montana, who visits Chile in the early 1970s with the purpose of collecting medicinal plants. During his stay, he encounters Rosa, the daughter of a local shaman or machi, who has an extensive understanding of the healing properties of plants. Their meeting paves the way for a romance cut short when Robert is called to serve in the Vietnam War. Several years after his departure, he returns to Chile following the military coup, only to discover he has a daughter with Rosa.
¿Eres tú?: A History of Lonquimay by Frank Tainter offers a unique perspective on the cultural and ecological richness of the Araucarian region by intertwining a love story with an ethnographic portrayal of the area's native people. As something of a survivalist myself, Tainter's emphasis on medicinal plants and their applications in traditional healing practices is not only fascinating but indicative of the vital role that ethnobotanical knowledge plays in the lives of the region's indigenous communities. I admit I went into this book knowing nothing about Chile, so Tainter's highlighting of the cultural significance of plant-based medicine and its links to cultural identity and ecological sustainability underscores the need for the preservation of traditional knowledge and the importance of sustainable practices in the context of a changing world. The writing can sometimes run on the loquacious side and often reads like a stream of consciousness that not everyone will appreciate, but, overall, the tale is a good one and the exhaustive research makes this a wonderful choice for readers who enjoy fact-based fiction.