In her early twenties, Laura Coleman finds herself living in London, her life an endless loop of commuting and corporate meetings. Tired of tight tailored suits and lacking direction, she quits her job and sets out for South America. Two months into her three-month trip to Bolivia, Laura is tired, bloated, sunburnt, lonely, and ready to go home. But a flyer about an animal welfare charity encourages her to stick it out, and soon she is en route to “el parque” in the heart of the Amazon.
Arriving at el parque, Laura finds an underfunded, understaffed, dilapidated camp, along with suicidal howler monkeys, megalomaniac pigs, toothless jaguars, and many more animals who had been abused and abandoned. She also meets a timid and moody puma named Wayra who she now has to learn how to “walk” outside of her enclosure. Within days, all Laura can think about is going home. But after several weeks of barely showering, being eaten alive by bugs, and doing work that pushes her to a physical and emotional exhaustion she’s never known, Laura deliberately misses her flight back to England. and spends the next two years learning how to trust Wayra, as well as how to trust herself.
Set against a backdrop of deforestation, illegal animal trade, and forest fires, THE PUMA YEARS: A Memoir of Love and Transformation in the Bolivian Jungle (Little A; June 8th, 2021) explores what happens when two desperate creatures in need of rescue find one another. Laura lures the reader into the center of the Bolivian jungle with her exquisite descriptions of the vivid colors, insects, animals, trees, plants, dirt, and swamps that she encounters daily. The emotional highs and lows are real and raw. The relationships – with both animals and humans – are complicated, but intimate. And we fall in love with all of el parque’s residents.
As that three-month ticket to Bolivia slowly turns into her life mission, Laura finds her passion and herself through helping endangered animals. Readers watch with tenderness and awe as Laura blossoms into a courageous leader, having started as an unwitting volunteer and growing to become el parque’s fiercest supporter.
In this truly immersive and moving memoir, Laura explores the unique love that exists between humans and animals. Earnest, yet humorous in tone, this book is for anyone who is seeking self-discovery, a sense of belonging, unconditional love, or a greater purpose.
Sussex, England. She studied English Literature and Art History at the University of East Anglia, and
received a master’s in Art History from the University of York. In 2007 she went to Bolivia and joined the NGO Comunidad Int Sussex, England. She studied English Literature and Art History at the University of East Anglia, and
received a master’s in Art History from the University of York. In 2007 she went to Bolivia and joined the NGO Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi (CIWY), which manages three wildlife sanctuaries, and gives homes to animals rescued from illegal wildlife trafficking. It was this work, the communities and the stories that she found there, that inspired her to start the Brighton-based organization ONCA – meaning jaguar (panthera onca). Bridging social and environmental justice issues with creativity, ONCA promotes positive change by facilitating inclusive spaces for creative learning, artist support, story-sharing and community solidarity. Laura currently lives in the Small Isles in Scotland with her dog, Nelo. She lives, makes art and writes by the sea. The Puma Years: A Memoir of Loveand Transformation in the Bolivian Jungle is her first book. Visit her at www.lauracoleman.co.uk/