Sunday, September 18, 2011
Aralen Dreams by Charles Thompson
John Dillon leaves everything he knows for the adventures of the Peace Corps. He's in his young twenties and doesn't really take much seriously, but wants to succeed. He's headed to a small village in Panama to teach and help the the community to live better lives.
He befriends the other people who are training with him and seems to take a shine to Elena, who he finds attractive. But he knows they will be going separate ways, to their own villages, for the next two years. His predecessor was a drunk and didn't do anything to help the villagers, so John sets out right away to prove he is different.
He takes to the simple life really well. He takes his Aralen, a pill that is supposed to prevent malaria, like he is supposed to, but the dreams it creates haunts him. He begins to make friends with the local farmers and gets frustrated when they don't listen to him. Elena calls him and he travels to visit her, beginning a new relationship between the two.
She has troubles with her village but glosses over them. The two meet whenever they can and quickly fall in love. John befriends an American couple who own a bar, and spends his Sundays there to watch sports. He seems to be making a home in his village and is finding himself and enjoying life. But then something happens to Elena that has John question his path in life and it will change his world forever.
Arelen Dreams is an in-depth peek into the Peace Corps and how they aid people and also when they hit roadblocks. Not only does the reader get a closer look at the poverty and hardships of the villagers, but there are bigger forces at work, like politics.
There are many sexual encounters, quite graphic and moderate drug use within this story. That didn't bother me and lend credence to the story, of people working for a pittance trying to help others, dealing with it in their own way. However, the ending felt rushed and I wanted a better closure. That's not to say it ended badly, the story was completed satisfactorily, but I wanted to know what else happened, which is really a nod to the author for an excellent, well-written novel. I highly enjoyed it and look forward to see what Mr. Thompson has in store next.