THE COFFEE DIARY by Caroline Kellems


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Returning from San Francisco to her native Guatemala to decide the fate of the two coffee farms that were willed to her following her father's murder, Veronica Villagràn comes up against corrupt forces that threaten her as well.

Kellems, a native Californian who owns a coffee plantation in Guatemala with her Guatemalan husband (they met there when she was in the Peace Corps), draws on real-life events to tell an unsettling but ultimately uplifting story about family roots and clashing cultures. Vero, whose American mother returns to California following the killing, has little interest in going back to Guatemala. But when the mayor of Moyuta expresses interest in buying one of the farms to build a low-income housing project, she reluctantly returns. Her plane has barely touched down when her Uncle Carlos gives her a gun, warning her to carry it with her at all times. The mayor wastes no time bullying her or setting his henchmen on her heels. Reunited with her relatives, Vero basks in their closeness and warmth. Reading through the diary she kept as a teenager, she revisits her early romances, family memories and love of her beautiful surroundings. Gradually, she becomes determined to keep the farms. As with everything else in Guatemala following its epic civil war, her family is not entirely what it seems. Her father slept around, her beloved half brother is betraying her and the mayor, who wants to marry her for respectability, has his own secret history with her family.

A first novel with no shortage of plot or film worthy characters (the mayor "looked like a villain in a low-budget Western"), but the writing can be stiff and clichés abound.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-59692-363-8
Page count: 250pp
Publisher: MacAdam/Cage
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2010