The improbable story of how Chapman was kidnapped from her rural Colombian village at the age of 5 and abandoned in the jungle.
According to the tale, pieced together by her daughter, Vanessa James, Chapman adopted monkey ways—eating what they ate, climbing trees and mimicking their calls—until five years later, when she connected with some hunters in the hopes of being returned to her family. Instead, she was left in a brothel on the outskirts of the nearby city. There she was kept in semislavery as a house servant. Gradually, she relearned Spanish and the rudiments of civilized life. Escaping, she fell in with other homeless children and was ultimately taken in by a brutal Mafia family, where she was again reduced to servitude. The book ends when the author, around the age of 14, was rescued by a neighbor's daughter, who offered her a real home in another town. Although ostensibly written as a first-person account by Chapman, the preface by James and the epilogue by novelist Barrett-Lee (One Day, Someday, 2003, etc.) provide a different picture. James explains how she was intrigued by her mother's stories about life among the monkeys and also by the oddity of her own upbringing—for example, having to sit and howl at her mother's feet before being fed. She decided “to piece together mum's tangled memories” about the “magical world” living in the jungle with a tribe of monkeys and the life of a Colombian street child, characterized by “kidnappings, abductions, drugs, crime, murder and child abuse.” Barrett-Lee admits that she was given “a huge, unwieldy document” to work with, which she then scripted.
An intriguing adventure story that often doesn’t ring true. Caveat emptor.