A stunning nonfiction debuts--part Central American travel memoir, part exercise in spiritual and emotional mapmaking by a woman traveling into regions of poverty, mysticism, and magic--by a gifted young writer of fiction (Vanishing Animals & Other Stories, 1979; The Bus of Dreams, 1985). Morris sets out from Mexico City to San Miguel, high in the Mexican desert, where she intends to create a home base for a year, with a mystery behind her: ""I had grown weary of life in New York. I went in search of a place where life would begin to make sense to me again."" What Morris finds as she travels south from San Miguel, into the Mexican jungle, through the land of the Mayans, along the tropical coasts, and into the byways of Honduras and Guatemala, are memories, ""gods,"" ""ghosts,"" and a sympathy with the beautifully rendered landscape and the people powerful enough to transform observations into auguries and symbols: a woman in a cave at the edge of the hills outside San Miguel becomes a protector and predictor of changed fortunes; a poor woman's cat a sacrificial lamb; and an eagle glimpsed in childhood ""a warrior knight who sacrificed his body to become a companion to the sun. A woman, I think I should not have to make this trade, but I have made it. . . The past struggles to keep me back. The gods propel me forward. I listen to the ghosts and obey the gods."" In the end, Morris finds and forfeits romance and finds and keeps friends, an abiding understanding of Mexico, and the courage to travel on. Evocative, reverberant, powerful, and moving: a feminist advance in travel writing.