Book Review: In the Shadow of the Volcano by Maureen Klovers

categories: south america travel

In the Shadow of the Volcano
Maureen Klover’s book In the Shadow of the Volcano is not only an enjoyable read, but incredibly refreshing.  Rather than rehash an itinerary or sights to be seen, she delves deeper by focusing on the “Why” that sent her traveling.   Why cultures think and behave the way they do, Why she was inspired to travel, Why her adventure was so deeply moving. Klover answers these questions by determinedly following twists, turns and bumpy roads taking the reader along for the ride. She also highlights time and again that travel is most memorable not just for the where or when, but for who you meet along the way.

As a U.S. Intelligence Officer, Klover’s focus was on Latin America but other than a few weeks of travel there, her experience was primarily based on books, newspapers and reports.  A chance conversation with a student of hers changes all that by firmly planting the seed of a gripping question.  She couldn’t shake it, she had to figure out the psyche of Latin America, needed to understand the “why” that drives them.  Determined to find the answer, Maureen forgoes resort-like opportunities and instead buys a ticket to Ecuador and commits to a volunteer teaching position at a Jesuit charity. The characters she introduced us to along the way are vivid and memorable and will likely stick with you after the last page.

In the Shadow of the Volcano isn’t made out to be strictly a thriller, dramatic or humorous memoir but it contains excellent moments of each.  Her experiences weave an entertaining and compelling story of her time in Ecuador that alternately makes the reader want to sign up and then be thankful they’re safely at home.   I particularly resonated with the epilogue in which she reveals her raw emotions of how Ecuador changed her.  That in short is why so many travel, to have these experiences and understand other cultures.  Klover’s book doesn’t treat travel as a map to pin or list to check off, instead it compels the reader to go there, to live it, to let a place and culture get inside of you and take a piece of it home.

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by Kirsten Hrobsky

Kirsten travels to find indigenous cultures, climb mountains and track down local cheeses. When her backpack is parked at home in San Francisco, she works as a writer, personal concierge and professional dog trainer.

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