NOW IS THE TIME TO OPEN YOUR HEART
Alice Walker, . . Random, $24.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-6173-0
Kate Talkingtree, the 57-year-old writer protagonist of Walker's latest concoction, is a lifelong seeker after enlightenment in the carnal, political and religious realms. After dreaming of a dry river, she decides to take this as a spiritual clue and makes two river-centric spiritual quests. In one, she embarks on an all-female white-water rafting trip down the Colorado River, coming home to her boyfriend, Yolo, a painter, with potentially startling news. She has decided that it is time to give up her sexual life and "enter another: the life of the virgin." Yolo, a feminist-friendly guy, takes this as well as he can. Soon Kate is off on another quest, this time in the Amazon rain forest, where she hopes to heal herself through trances induced by yagé administered by an Amazonian shaman, Armando Juarez. Yagé, a hallucinogenic beverage, is also known as Grandmother to the native peoples. Indeed, it turns out that Kate's Grandmother archetype—representing the Earth, the ancestors and those violated by patriarchy and racism—has been calling out to her. Meanwhile, Yolo, on vacation in Hawaii, encounters a transsexual Polynesian shaman, or Mahu, who charges him with the mission of giving up addictive substances. A subplot involving corporations conspiring to patent yagé creates an unintended irony: isn't the mindset that exploits native wisdom for Western corporate greed similar to the mindset that exploits native rituals for the sake of Western spiritual "healing"? Luckily, followers of the goddess, and presumably Walker's readers, are not very keen on irony. Those who retain some affection for that hopelessly outdated and patriarchal trope are advised to bypass this inflated paean to the self.
Reviewed on: 11/17/2003