The Coffee Diary

Caroline Kellems, MacAdam/Cage, $24 (250p) ISBN 978-1-59692-363-8
Kellems's flat debut hinges on an agonizing decision 28-year-old Veronica has to make between holding onto her past and moving ahead with her life. After receiving an offer from unsavory Mayor Jaime to buy one of her family's coffee farms in Guatemala, Veronica returns to Moyuta, where she often felt like an outsider when accompanying her American mother: "I stood out with my honey-colored hair and fair skin. I was Guatemalan and American, yet neither." Going back means also confronting her father's recent murder and sorting through unresolved emotions about his adulterous behavior. She discovers her forgotten diary, reconnecting with her 14-year-old self, which may hold the key to who she can trust. Only after Veronica begins to investigate Mayor Jaime's motivations does she realize the level of danger she may be in. Kellems, who runs a coffee plantation in Guatemala, struggles to create convincing characters and tends toward overexplanatory dialogue ("I'm afraid I never forgave my father. I thought I had, but it's still painful to think about"), but her descriptions of a landscape clearly familiar to her shine. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/18/2010
Release date: 04/01/2010
Genre: Fiction
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