A True Man o’ War

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Imagine living in the middle of a civil war, the horrible sensation of a cold gun barrel being pointed at the back of your neck. The fear of losing your loved ones running through your mind.

Imagine living in the middle of a civil war, the horrible sensation of a cold gun barrel being pointed at the back of your neck. The fear of losing your loved ones running through your mind. This is what twelve-year-old Carlos and his mother endured during the Guatemalan Civil War, in the fiction novel, “Caminar,” by Skila Brown.
Taking place in the impoverished village of Chopán, in 1981, the novel begins by introducing Carlos, a young boy with the fierce determination to become a man, which requires one to see their nahual, a spirit animal protector.
One day, the ominous roar of army vehicles approaching Carlos’ sleepy, little village brings the entire town anxiously out of their beds. After establishing a temporary camp, the soldiers persuade villagers to betray the names of any Communists they know, in turn for 400 quetzales, enough money to feed a person for a month. Then, the day before the soldiers break camp, the villagers make the hideous discovery of a man hung from a tree, with a sign around his neck reading “Communist.”
Realizing the danger of the situation, Carlos’ mother pleads to him to hide in the jungle, and run up their mountain to his abuela’s house, to warn her of the peril. But will Carlos get there before the Army does? And will Carlos encounter his nahual?
Read “Caminar” to find out!
This book is generally for adolescents aging from 12 to 14, due to some violence and political-related ideas, but it is a captivating page turner for adults as well. The book is a compilation of events in Carlos’ life told in verse. When reading “Caminar,” I was moved by how far one will go to ensure that their family is protected in the middle of a dangerous war. Brown did an excellent job introducing youth to what being a man in war really means. This book is definitely a must-read for mature youth and sophisticated adults!