Book

Under the Salvadoran Sun

About the book: 

Under the Salvadoran Sun  is about a woman’s search for a new purpose for her life in the embrace of post civil war El Salvador. It’s love, sex and altruism in the hot and sensual arms of Central America. By a chance meeting with her former lover, Angela, an artist and widow from Seattle, is drawn into assisting him at a Salvadoran orphanage, supervised by an irreverent nun.

More is at stake for Angela when she has to confront her daughters’ discovery of her past transgression. As the story unfolds, Angela faces the complex world of Salvadoran gangs, threatening to entrap the young boys of the orphanage and secrets that jeopardize her relationship with her lover, Liam. 

A true journey of the heart begins, when Liam convinces Angela to help him get their mutual friends, a Salvadoran mother and young daughter to El Norte, where they hope to reunite the family. The journey north is dangerous and adventure-packed, as they meet up with Guatemalan bandidos, a curandero(healer) and friends in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. As they near the border they learn a startling fact about the father, an undocumented worker in California, bringing the novel to a bittersweet surprise ending. 

Filled with familial conflict, questions of faith, self-interest and true humanitarianism, the story confronts the issue of immigration without proselytizing a solution. The reader can see many sides of the issue through coming to know more about El Salvador and its people and history.

READ AN EXCERPT HERE:

Chance Meeting

El Salvador 2010

Now ten years later, Angela was wiser after the ordeal of caring for her husband during an extended illness, and widowhood. She began to awaken from her year of grieving, and once again to look for a new direction for her life, a way she could do something significant. Her heroes, like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, inspired her belief that one person could make a difference. She wanted to return to Central America, a place where she had felt needed when she and her husband worked repairing a hospital during the Contra War. Her daughters disapproved. 

          “It’s only been a year, mother,” Arial said. “Why are you so anxious to return to Central America? You and daddy did your part. We’ll worry about you traveling alone, and Dad would have, too.”

           “You forget, dear,” said Angela, “I traveled alone to El Salvador ten years ago and was able to accomplish something as well as build new friendships. It’s important to me to see my Nicaraguan and Salvadoran friends again.”

            Angela knew her own heart. She knew that revisiting these places of her past, where she had grown to love the people and to feel like she was doing some good in the world, was just what she needed. A month later Angela began her pilgrimage, stopping first in Guatemala, then Nicaragua and  finally on to San Salvador where she checked into the same hostel where she had once stayed before she met her NGO group.

            Unpacking, she couldn’t help but be nostalgic. Tomorrow, she planned to attend a lecture about building non-violent reconciliation and self sufficiency in this country still scarred by civil war. The presenter was a man she had once met and looked forward to seeing again, though she doubted he would remember her. She informed the manager at the hostel that she would need a taxi the following morning.

            The next day, awaking with a start, Angela realized she had overslept. The hostel’s manager tapped at the door.

            “Señora, your taxi is here.”

            “Gracias.”

            Angela hurried to dress, and pulled her hair back from her face into a ponytail. Arial told her that wearing her hair back showed o$ her high cheekbones. Peering in the mirror, she pinched her cheeks, wiped some gloss across her lips and slipped into her sandals. Then she put on a pair of simple beaded earrings her friend, Adriana, had given her. She never liked to wear much jewelry when she traveled in Latin America. Somehow, it seemed like rubbing wealth in the face of the poor, as well as inviting theft. Grabbing her brightly colored, woven Guatemalan bag, she headed out to the lobby and then the waiting taxi.

             Angela looked up at the San Salvador cathedral, breathed deep with anticipation, and hurried to cross the street. As she clutched her bag close to her, she stepped out into the traffic of honking cars and trucks, carts pulled by burros and vendors hawking their wares. Approaching the steps of the cathedral, she stopped short! Casually leaning against a parked red pickup was a man she recognized. She could clearly make out his form and facial features—it was definitely he. Recognition permeated every fiber of her body,as Liam turned his eyes toward her. His direct gaze penetrated her. It reminded her of their first encounter when his stare threw her off guard. It was as if he peered right through her, she thought—not the way that makes women squirm uncomfortably, like they’re being undressed, but a look that registers with some element of oneself. With a look of surprise, Liam smiled broadly and began to walk toward her, his tall and lanky frame moving with ease. He seemed somewhat thinner than she remembered, and his hair had taken on a salt-and-pepper hue. With a nervous gesture, she pushed a wisp of hers back, away from her eyes. Angela had only a moment to catch her breath before Liam stood and faced her with a boyish grin of recognition—as boyish as a sixty-something-year old man can muster. The flirtatious glint in his eyes was disarming, but at the same time exciting. How amazing they should once again meet at the steps of the cathedral. For a moment she felt uneasy, as she recalled the years of guilt about their affair. With her Italian Catholic upbringing, it had been hard to justify their brief transgression.

                “Wow—how can this be? Angela, it’s really you,” said Liam. “You’re still as beautiful as I remember. What in heaven’s name brings you to San Salvador this time?”

                He reached out his arms to embrace her. She pulled away and looked up into his limpid blue eyes.

                “I could ask the same of you. You’re the last person I expected to see here.” Her heart beat faster than the hurrying feet of the folks running up the steps to the cathedral entrance. She and Liam were barely conscious of the crowd as it brushed past them. They stared at each other for several moments, until Liam took her arm and steered her into the imposing edifice.

                “We better go in if we want to get a good seat,” he said. “We can talk later. You came to hear Father Rutilio, not me, I presume?” Liam winked.

                 Though Rutilio was no longer a priest, Angela noted how Liam always addressed him as “Father,” a sign of special reverence for a man he loved and admired.

                 “Do you remember when I introduced you to Rutilio?” asked Liam.

                 “How could I forget?” Angela said, still catching her breath from this surprise encounter. “When I heard he was going to speak here, I arranged to stay over a couple of days before going to the Bajo Lempa. I’m sure he won’t remember me. We met so many years ago.”

                 “Don’t be too sure about that. Father Rutilio rarely forgets anyone, especially someone as attractive as you. You know these Latin men.”

                 Angela smiled with a nod. They found seats on a crowded bench near the pulpit. Pressed beside one another, their shoulders touched, and the years since they were last together evaporated. Father Rutilio approached the pulpit, glanced in Liam’s direction with a warm smile and began to speak. Angela’s mind was elsewhere, whisked back to her first trip to El Salvador and her time with Liam ten years earlier.

 

NOTE: A percentage of the sales of this book will be donated to EcoViva, supporting environmental sustainability, social justice and peace for communities in Central America. See their website 

Sher wishes to acknowledge and thank Salvadoran artist, Fernando Llort, for his generous permisson to use his beautiful images on the cover of the book and within the interior.  His work is available on line at his websitewww.fernando-llort.com