#AtoZChallenge · Novels, Novellas, Narratives

#AtoZChallenge: F is for Five Weeks In The Amazon

A to Z Challenge - Ugly Truth

The Inspirations, Ugly Truths, and Things That Make You Go “Huh?” for Under A Melting Sun

F is for FIVE WEEKS IN THE AMAZON

The book Five Weeks in the Amazon is nothing close to being ugly. Written by pro-skateboarder Sean Michael Hayes, this novel is a real account of one man’s journey into the Amazon after almost losing everything, including his fight against depression. Seeking out a shaman and partaking in Ayahuasca rituals, the cleanse diet heals more than just his body. Taking a step out of the norm and into the wilderness, Sean’s story is not only fascinating; its inspirational.

So what’s the ugly truth? I hate to admit it but I probably wouldn’t have read Sean’s book if it wasn’t for my need to do research for my own novel. I know this is going to make me sound terrible, but I didn’t really think much of the Amazon until recently. Sure, I watched FernGully: The Last Rainforest as much as the next 90’s kid (and that’s when I wasn’t watching Free Willy and drawing “Save the Whales” posters that I plastered all over my bedroom walls in order to convince my stuffed animals to get with the program). But as I got older, my little world consisted of just me getting by. Survive high school, graduate college, get a job. Those expectations didn’t even turn out right. Yeah, I graduated with a B.A., but I also graduated with student debt and no job prospects, because when I graduated the economy had just tanked. Up until then, there’s no way I could contribute money to a good cause. I could barely contribute it to my bills.

And if it wasn’t life getting in the way, it was my own perception. When ever I would hear about the rain forest being destroyed, along with the countless other battles that range from endangered animals to cancers, I figured some day it’ll be fixed. Some day some one will swoop in and save the day, make a judgment call, persuade the bad guys to turn good. I’m just one person out of a billion whose trying to survive in the jungle of our own society. The rain forest needs important people on its side, and that’s just not me. But then I got the idea for Under A Melting Sun, and for some reason (and I still don’t know why) I decided to base the story in the Amazon. It sent me on a war path to studying the environment and cultures I had been neglecting to learn about, causing me to go on book buying binges that ended up introducing me to Sean’s book.

To be honest, I didn’t read it right away. It ended up staring at me from across my room for awhile until finally one night I bypassed reading one of my other books in order to take a chance on his. But once I picked it up, I didn’t put it down. Out of my new book collection, it was one of the most recent accounts of someone journeying to the Amazon, and the passion he puts into the book is hypnotizing. As I said in a previous review, this book is written almost like a love letter. While he’s rediscovering himself, he’s also rediscovering how to love and appreciate those around him. He doesn’t hide his depression or self-doubt, but that’s what makes the story so precious. I came to not feel for him but with him, because a lot of the emotional struggles he felt was something I could relate to. I’ve got my own sadness in me, my own darkness that I struggle with. I’ve learned to put those emotions to good use by writing them into my stories, which Sean was able to do, too. As I read his book, I felt a connection with him as if he were sitting across the way from me telling his story in person. I’ve never had that experience before when reading; but then again, I also don’t read much 1st person accounts. Sean’s book was brand new territory for me, and I shutter to think that I could have completely missed out on it.

Although Five Weeks in the Amazon isn’t a motivator to save the rain forest, it does reveal the mysteries and charm that makes the Amazon such a gift to this world. Just his personal accounts of the people he meets makes his experiences so enlightening, and to think that the environment is being destroyed and slowly diminishing such a colorful culture is rather devastating. That’s part of the reason why I decided to do my #GiveBack campaign for when my own novel’s done. Sean’s story made a difference in my life. Maybe my story can do the same for someone else. 🙂

And a side note, for those who question the snake population down south, there’s a small scene in the book where Sean is almost attacked by a snake. See?! The place is infested. My chances of visiting get bleaker and bleaker. 😛

Want to buy your own copy or sneak a peek inside? Check it out here.

Why it may deter you:  Five Weeks in the Amazon is a true story, and Sean doesn’t shy away from the drug use he encountered nor the feelings he has while experiencing Ayahuasca. While he’s blunt in some areas, he’s richly detailed in others, which makes this story both honest and entertaining. Although Under A Meltling Sun is a completely different type of book, the honest approaches and straightforward emotion is something that it shares with Sean’s story. There are times when its blunt and doesn’t care about how you feel towards a character, and that may leave some readers in the fetal position.

Why it may not deter you: Sean’s book is full of humor, passion, and imagery that makes you keep turning the page, which is something that I strive for in my own story. As I said, I wasn’t much for reading biography-like stories or books based in the rain forest, but his book got me hooked. Give it a try, and you may find yourself wanting a cleansing experience, too. 🙂

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