The Shaman’s Gift
by Lee Fishman
Transmedia Press

"As time passed, I became fearful that my elderly teacher would perish before I'd recorded the full extent of his knowledge."

Intent on attending medical school, nineteen-year-old University of Illinois student Carrie Mullen experiences a radical shift after a class trip to Belize rainforests immerses her in the world of herbal healing. In the present narrative, the now expert in ethnobotany, Dr. Mullen, reflects on her apprenticeship with renowned Mayan shaman Don Rodrigo. Throughout the novel, there is a stark dichotomy between a notion of connecting with nature through plants and a desire by outside forces to imprint their corporate mentality of personal gain onto an untarnished, uncorrupted way of life.

On the one hand, Carrie's zeal for learning is repeatedly on display through her apprenticeship. She is completely content in obscurity. Money and fame have no place in her life. Conversely, the arrival of Mel Powers, a tech entrepreneur, opens a Pandora's box of characters intent on reaching Don Rodrigo and monetizing his life's work. Upon Powers's entry in the novel, where he is seen delivering sensationalist propaganda alleging a cure for cancer, it becomes clear that Carrie will have the opportunity to validate the impact of plant-based healing to scientists and doctors, but not without a cost.

Though the narrative is driven by Carrie's work under Don Rodrigo and the rainforest in San Mateo, there are numerous undercurrents featuring other characters. These include Josefina (a money-hungry granddaughter), Julio (a great nephew who has an innate interest in continuing Don Rodrigo's work), and a Ph.D. advisor who resurfaces in Belize at the most unexpected of times. From riveting moments where the ayahuasca-based tea ceremony drastically impacts a PTSD patient's demeanor to the effects of the green amulet carving of a toad given to Carrie by Don Rodrigo, the audience is given an enriching and educational glimpse into the world of herbal healing and authentic living.

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