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Customer Review

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting story from a distant land, September 9, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Into The Heart: One Man's Pursuit of Love and Knowledge Among the Yanomami (Paperback)
With Into the Heart, Good and Chanoff have created that all-too-rare phenomenon-- a book that can be equally enjoyed by the general reader and the academic specialist. A riveting account of Good's years with the Yanomami people of Venezuela and Brazil, it can be read as a rich ethnography, an "insider's view" of the scientific research process, an edge-of-your-seat travel yarn, or a rainforest version of "Romeo and Juliet." I first encountered it quite by chance in the trade-book section of a chain bookstore, where the word "Yanomami" on the cover caught my eye. In my graduate training as a cultural anthropologist, I had read descriptions of the Yanomami characterizing them as "the fierce people." jungle warriors whose obsession with violence and warfare alledgedly proved that human nature was innately nasty and brutish. So I was both astonished and pleased to read Good's nuanced descriptions of life in a Yanomami village, to find that this much-maligned group was composed of unique, complex individuals, some aggressive, some gentle, all impressively resourceful in adapting to their rainforest environment. I now use it as an auxiliary text in my introductory classes, and student response has been overwhelmingly positive. Good's discussion of his research brings to life the interplay of scientific theory and data in a dramatic and accessible way. At the same time, his sketches of daily life among the Yanomami transport the reader so effectively that one can almost smell the meat roasting on the campfires, hear the low murmur of voices punctuating the night, feel the rhythm of lives enjoyed in attunement with nature and kin. The Yanomami no longer seem like strangers in a strange land, but like neighbors-- people we feel we know. And then there's the love story that propels the narrative and provides suspense, the memoir of gradually flowering trust, tenderness, and commitment between Ken and Yarima, the Yanomamo woman who would become his wife and the mother of their three children. The emotional richness of their struggle to preserve love in the face of immense cultural barriers is especially appealing to college-age readers, and probably explains why more than one undergraduate has confessed that "Ken Good's book was the only one I read cover-to-cover this semester-- I just had to find out what happened!" A rare human document that can be enjoyed on many levels, this unique story will find its way "into the heart" of any reader who enters its rainforest world-- and will not be soon forgotten.
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