WARRIORS IN EDEN by Mariano Gagnon


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 A Franciscan missionary battles drug-runners and Shining Path terrorists on behalf of Peruvian Indians: a story competently told with the help of the Hoffers, specialists in coauthoring tales of Third World trauma (Midnight Express, Not Without My Daughter). When Gagnon, a New Hampshire native, sets up his mission in 1969 among the Ashaninka Indians of central Peru, his task is formidable but predictable: to educate an indigenous people--who paint their faces, hunt with bow and arrow, and stride around half-naked--to enter the modern world without decimating their traditional ways. Gagnon's success is marked: Under his supervision, the Ashaninka build an airstrip, become literate, learn to function in a cash economy. But then anonymous ``narcos'' appear, appropriating the airstrip to ferry shipments of cocaine to points north and offering Gagnon large sums--which he spurns with disdain--for his cooperation. The real horror, however, arrives with the Maoist Shining Path guerrillas, who terrorize Gagnon, torch the mission, demand young men as conscripts for their slave armies, and castrate or crucify Ashaninka who refuse to cooperate. When Gagnon goes to Lima for help, both the American embassy and the Church hierarchy resist his pleas, although a contingent of Green Berets finally escorts him back into the rain forest. Further battles with the Shining Path lead to two evacuations and newspaper sketches of Gagnon as a rifle-packing padre. While he rejects this cartoonish image, Gagnon comes off here as sharp-tongued, hotheaded, and utterly committed to the cause of the Indians. He provides a token defense of liberation theology, but this is basically a visceral story of good against evil, told by a man with little tolerance for subtleties. A moderately gripping story of a modern-day hero, despite the warts. (Photos)

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 1993
ISBN: 0-688-11796-1
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1993


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