La Aguita: The Little Water
by Jenny Kingham
Xlibris AU

"If she wanted to find peace here, she had to accept the rain and its greyness, just as she had to accept Chile’s dark history."

It’s 1986, and Laura is a well-meaning Australian who has come to Chile as part of a volunteer program. Having grown up on a farm, as well as having studied agriculture in school, she feels well equipped to help locals improve their farming and livestock operations. What she’s not well equipped to deal with, however, is the internal political struggles of many of the people she’s come to help.

A coup thirteen years earlier replaced the struggling Allende government with the military dictatorship of General Pinochet. Most of the country’s citizens now live under continual repression. Those who oppose the government publicly are often arrested, tortured, and even killed. Laura, who resides in the home of a relatively well-to-do matron, finds more of a kinship with the woman’s housekeeper and those who live in poverty. When she encounters student protests and stories from political prisoners, her ability to remain neutral is sorely tested. Feelings for the housekeeper’s handsome son also come into play, as she must eventually decide whether to remain an observant bystander or a willing participant in reprisals against the unjust.

Kingham is a skillful writer who paints vivid pictures of the environment and the people of Chile. Her descriptions of villages, cities, churches, prisons, and countryside all provide insightful illumination. The author’s character development is solid, and her players’ motivations all feel authentic. However, Laura’s reticence to commit sometimes has a debilitating effect on the passion quotient, making the tale perhaps less searing than it might be. Still, it is a well-done work that will likely stick with you beyond story’s end.

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