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I’m so excited to share this latest review with you all! It’s a travel memoir from Evelyn Kohl LaTorre about her time with the Peace Corps in Peru. It’s been great to read a female travel memoir from the 60s, especially given travelling was not so big amongst women back then. As travel isn’t really an option right now it’s been so nice to dive into someone else’s travel experiences!
***AD: This review contains a press sample but all thoughts are my own***
“At twenty-one, Evelyn is naive about life and love. Raised in a small Montana town, she moves at age sixteen with her devout Catholic family to California. There, she is drawn to Latino culture when she works among the migrant workers. During the summer of her junior year in college, Evelyn travels to a small Mexican town to help set up a school and a library/. It’s an experience that whets her appetite for a life full of both purpose and adventure.
After graduation, Evelyn joins the Peace Corps and is sent to perform community development work in a small mountain town in the Andes of Peru. There, she and her roommate, Marie, search for meaningful projects and adjust to living with few amenities. Over the course of eighteen months, the two young women work in a hospital, start 4-H clubs, attend Campesino meetings, and teach PE in a school with dirt floors. Evelyn is chosen queen of the local boys’ high school and–despite her resolve to resist such temptations–falls in love with a university student. As she comes of age, Evelyn learns about life and love the hard way when she must choose between following the religious rules of her youth and giving in to her sexual desires.”
(Taken from Goodreads)
I love a good female travel memoir and I’ve read so many good ones since I started Pages Places & Plates. This is 100% another one to add to the list! Between Inca Walls is a wonderful look at life during ’60s Peru, plus the experiences of the Peace Corps.
Despite Evelyn being a Catholic American woman, I really identify with her during the story. She’s an adventurer, a free spirit, who wants to explore the world rather than settle down back home in California. Back in those times life was very much set out for a woman, and Evelyn longs to travel before this happens. She joins the Peace Corps and ends up in Peru. Here her life becomes wildly different from what it would have been otherwise.
The book explores the challenges of adapting to a different life. There are so many interesting situations that Evelyn has to navigate. We see stark differences in culture through her eyes, plus witness other people more resistant to change. Evelyn transforms from a young American girl wanting to help others to a strong, clever woman who is equipped and ready to face any set-back.
I absolutely loved Evelyn’s descriptions – the writing is so detailed and vibrant. They really brought Peru to life and I learned a lot about culture and the environment there. It was interesting to see someone from one culture have to adapt to a culture so different. I think the time difference really added to this, too, with the differences being far more noticeable.
Adventure isn’t the only theme of the book though, and Evelyn’s story is actually quite personal. Evelyn is Catholic, and throughout her time in Peru she experiences a few religious ups and downs. There’s also the matter of love, with Evelyn trying to make sense of her feelings towards the kind-hearted men she comes across in Peru. She eventually develops a relationship with one on them and it’s such a gripping journey. I actually found this even more fascinating than the parts focusing on her project work! I was so invested in Evelyn’s relationship, and it brought about another interesting struggle to witness… The need to remain “pure” and ignore sexual urges before marriage due to her religion.
I’m not religious myself, so this element was really intriguing to me as it’s something I’ve never experienced. I’m grateful to live in a more easy-going time but Evelyn had to deal with this situation in her own way. I think this is what really gives the book an edge – it’s not just a travel memoir, or even a love story, but a battle of will.
Between Inca Walls is a fascinating female travel memoir, with such an interesting and in-depth look at the author’s experiences. It’s a well-rounded read with so much to give its audience, and Evelyn’s beautiful and descriptive writing of both her emotions and her experiences really brings it to life. This is a strong recommendation from me – I couldn’t put it down, and you won’t be able to either!
If you’d like to get your own copy of Between Inca Walls then you can do so here:
“Evelyn Kohl LaTorre grew up in rural Southeastern Montana, surrounded by sheep and cattle ranches, before coming to California with her family at age 16. She holds a doctorate in multicultural education from the University of San Francisco. She also has a master’s degree in social welfare from UC Berkeley. Evelyn worked as a bilingual school psychologist and school administrator in public education until her retirement. She loves to travel; to date, she and her husband have traveled to some 100 countries.
Her writing has appeared in World View Magazine, The Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, the California Writers Club Literary Review, the Tri-City Voice, Dispatches and Clever Magazine. She is currently completing a second book about the struggles and triumphs of a bicultural marriage in the U.S.”
What elements do you like to be explored within a travel memoir? And what’s the best female travel memoir you’ve read, if any? Make sure to comment below, and also like and pin if you enjoyed this review! You can read some of my other travel-focused memoirs here: