Life and Death in the Andes : On the Trail of Bandits, Heroes, and Revolutionaries
by Kim MacQuarrie

Overview - Unique portraits of legendary characters along South America's mountain spine, from Charles Darwin to the present day, told by a master traveler and observer.

The Andes Mountains are the world's longest mountain chain, linking most of the countries in South America.  Read more...

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More About Life and Death in the Andes by Kim MacQuarrie
Unique portraits of legendary characters along South America's mountain spine, from Charles Darwin to the present day, told by a master traveler and observer.

The Andes Mountains are the world's longest mountain chain, linking most of the countries in South America. Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and author Kim MacQuarrie takes us on a historical journey through this unique region, bringing fresh insight and contemporary connections to such fabled characters as Charles Darwin, Pablo Escobar, Che Guevara, and many others. He describes the floating islands of Lake Titicaca, where people's lives depend entirely on a reed that grows there. He introduces us to a Patagonian woman who is the last living speaker of her language, as he explores the disappearance and sometimes surprising resiliency of indigenous cultures throughout the Andes. He meets a man whose grandfather witnessed Butch Cassidy's last days in Bolivia, tracks down the ballet dancer who once hid the leader of the brutal Shining Path in her home, and hears a harrowing story from the school teacher who gave Che Guevara his final meal.

Through the stories he shares, MacQuarrie raises such questions as, where did the people of South America come from? Did they create or import their cultures? What makes South America different from other continents--and what makes the cultures of the Andes different from other cultures in South America? Why did Peru's Shining Path leader Guzman nearly succeed in his revolutionary quest while Che Guevara in Bolivia so quickly failed? And what so astounded Charles Darwin in South America that led him to conceive the theory of evolution? Deeply observed and beautifully written, Life and Death in the Andes shows us this land as no one has before.

  • ISBN-13: 9781439168899
  • ISBN-10: 143916889X
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publish Date: December 2015
  • Page Count: 448
  • Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds

Related Categories

Books > History > Latin America - South America

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2015-09-14
  • Reviewer: Staff

Filmmaker MacQuarrie (The Last Days of the Incas) assembles an overly ambitious mix of travelogue, history, and anthropological study that tours the Andes mountain range through stories of well-known people who inhabited the region in the past. The hodgepodge of miniature historical accounts, which leap around in time and subject, is strung together primarily by geography. The figures include Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar in the late 1980s and 90s, naturalist Charles Darwin on his trip to the Galápagos Islands, famous bandits Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara during his last days in the Bolivian forest, among others. MacQuarrie interjects himself into the narrative, sometimes as a reporter (as when he interviews the colonel in charge of hunting down Escobar) and other times as a traveler (as when he recounts arguing with an elderly Chinese tourist about creationism while on a boat tour of the Galápagos). The time line of this personal subthread is never apparent and makes for a stringy, convoluted narrative that fails to create a comprehensive whole. Agent: Sarah Lazin, Sarah Lazin Books. (Dec.)

BookPage Reviews

The call of the wild in South America

Using the wildly diverse 4,300-mile South American mountain chain as a backdrop, filmmaker and writer Kim MacQuarrie revisits the triumphs and depredations of such varied figures in the region as Charles Darwin, Che Guevara, drug cartel chief Pablo Escobar, Machu Picchu “discoverer” Hiram Bingham and the ever-mythic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. 

But MacQuarrie is no hit-and-run chronicler cherry-picking fables. He immerses himself in the territory he’s been exploring since the late 1980s, when he first journeyed to Peru to interview imprisoned members of the Shining Path guerrilla movement. His account of how Shining Path leader Abimael Guzmán was finally run to ground is both a rousing good yarn and a case study in political error.

The author shows that Guevara’s undoing was an instance of revolutionary fervor overriding common sense. He brings fresh details to the narrative by tracking down the teacher who fed and conversed with Guevara in the hours before a Bolivian soldier executed him.

Although famous names provide much of the material in Life and Death in the Andes, they occupy only a part of MacQuarrie’s attention. He also delves into local cultures, explaining, for example, how an American helped found a thriving cooperative that rekindled interest in traditional Peruvian weaving. He retraces Darwin’s steps on the Galápagos Islands and travels to the tip of the continent to meet the last speaker of the once flourishing Yamana Indian language, destroyed by the ravages of colonialism. MacQuarrie is a master storyteller whose cinematic eye always shines through.


This article was originally published in the December 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

BAM Customer Reviews