‘Picaflor, that’s what they call a hummingbird here: a snacker, nibbler, pecker of flowers.
Is that what I am? A restless searcher of sweet nectar?’
In Picaflor, a true story, Jessica Talbot invites the reader to travel beside her as she searches for love and meaning, while traversing the fascinating countries of South America. Along the way she lets go of grief, grasps hold of the present and finds herself occupying her own weather beaten shoes.
The story starts with Jessica getting a tattoo of a hummingbird, a reminder of new beginnings. Then a kiss at sunrise in the snow-dusted Andes of Peru sends her on a restless, risky journey that ends in Argentina. As she travels through unknown terrain, new friends give her important insights into the meaning of friendship, and old ties strengthen as she frees herself from the past. It’s in the exhilarating but complicated city of Buenos Aires that she finally understands what it means to feel home.
Picaflor is a warm human story that has the potiental to resonate with many people, especially those who feel lost and stuck and need some inspiration. It’s also a story that would be of interest to expatriates around the world, people who want to travel to South America and Argentines who are curious about a foreigner’s perspective of living in their country.
Thanks to KEL ediciones, I had a lovely book signing at the Buenos Aires International Book Fair in April. I sent some Picaflors to new homes and had a wonderful time talking with people (Photo from KEL).
Many thanks to The Buenos Aires Herald for : A nest of her own by Sorrel Moseley-Williams and More than All Blacks by Michael Soltys. And special thanks to The Argentina Independent for their Author spotlight review/article by Sarah Moses and My Beautiful Air for a lovely interview by Nora Wallenius. BooksellersNZ review by Felicity Murray, review/recommended reading by Donovan’s Literary Services and an interview with UCES university in Buenos Aires (in Spanish). Profile by URBIS magazine, April print edition, 2016.
Guest posts: Finding-home-in-far-off-places on Pippaloves.com , A-journey-to-self-publishing for familycapers.com.au, two posts in The Attached Family and a guest post in yourlifeisatrip.com. ‘We all need a tribe’ article in iamwoman print magazine Issue number 2 (Australia).
For New Zealand and Australia books can be ordered from Booktopia, Angus & Robertson, Readings, Paperplus, The book Depository, Bookworld and Wheelers. And can be found in store at The Woman’s Bookshop in Auckland and Unity books in Wellington. My facebook page.
B.R.A.G Medellion awarded 2015 for non-fiction category, Indie publishers. Check out the other honorees on their website.
Review by D. Donovan, Editor, Donovan’s Literary Services/Recommended Reading
More so than most travel memoirs, Picaflor: Finding Home in South America is a journey of self-discovery as much as a sojourn through South America, and tells how a crushing loss sent the author on a journey to the other side of the world in search of love, a sense of place, and peace.
What separates Picaflor’s approach from so many other travel memoir odysseys is its exquisite attention to detail and delicate blend of personal, cultural, spiritual and travel insights. It’s not easy to create a journey that carries its readers along for the ride with ‘you-are-there’ moments both intimate and reflective: “I am calmed by the whispering leaves and that strange orange glow of a day near its end. I no longer feel invaded by the sensation of searching. Being alone, as I am now in the garden, is a choice. I have people to go home to: two strong women to cushion me from the hard edges of life.”
How to keep these ‘hard edges’ of life an invitation to remain open to new experiences is just one of the many lessons Picaflor imparts using a lightly philosophical, revealing first-person tone that doesn’t keep readers at bay, but immerses them in the sights, sounds, and feel of South America.
Review by West of Buenos Aires
“I think this whole “being a foreigner” thing feels consistent, somehow. It’s like my inner world and the outer one are in alignment. I’ve felt kind of foreign all my life, now I truly am.”
All too often travel memoirs make me feel inadequate, jealous or annoyed. The problem is either a lack of authenticity or an unlikeable narrator. Thankfully Picaflor suffers neither of these faults. Picaflor: Finding Home in South America relates the journey of New Zealand-born Jessica Talbot, whose restless travels start with a tattoo of a hummingbird in Peru and leads her to Buenos Aires in a quest to discover what it means to feel at home.
Picaflor is about searching.
Jessica’s descriptions of the transitory characters, long-time travellers and expats “drifting, like little white parachuted dandelion seeds in the wind” are spot-on. After traveling solo in Central and South America for months I can relate to descriptions like “the eerie atmosphere that hovers in Cusco’s valleys seems to attract people who are searching…” and that “everyone I meet is struggling with something.”
It’s about a search for love.
Expats and long-term travellers have all experienced a version of Jessica’s Paco, the enigmatic one-that-got-away who, on reflection, was no real catch. Negotiated a confusing set of dating rules and etiquette often in a different language. Suffered the fly-by-night chancers, and maybe, if they’re lucky, found their quiet and dependable true love like Jessica’s Diego.
But Picaflor is more than your average “girl goes travelling, girl looks for boy, finds boy” travelogue shallowness. Jessica’s journey is a search for meaning, for family, for her place in the world. Picaflor is intimately revealing; reading snippets of a haunted childhood, exploration of the grief following the loss of a true love, macabre incidents like the death of a drunken tour guide, and her always candid exploration of her feelings, it feels like you’ve stumbled across a diary rather than your regular travel blog post.
Authenticity of voice and a refreshing parity of description make this book memorable. Just enough detail to pick you up and deposit you in a dusty Peruvian plaza, gazing at an open-mouthed church, but not too much that it reads like a guidebook. And anyone who has spent a significant amount of time in Argentina will appreciate the insight into this fascinating country’s psyche from an outsider’s perspective.
Thanks, Jessica, for Picaflor. Aside from identifying with the story, I thought the book was a beautiful read and a moving – brave – account of universal themes of longing, loss and acceptance told with warmth and style.
Some reviews from amazon
Review 1: Julia Knobloch (NY)
I really loved reading this book, and not only because it is well written and has a great pace. I particularly liked the author’s voice – combining the analytical mind of a psychologist with a very warm heart of a romantic dreamer, she keeps her writing well balanced and achieves to be very honest without falling into traps other memoirists tend to fall: When she writes about herself, and about her itinerary, her thoughts, hopes, and detours, she is never too detached and distant, nor does she provide too much personal and emotional information. This makes this memoir really compelling and attractive and entertaining until the last page. You want to continue reading and find out what happens to this young woman (and you wish her luck with every page.)
Much has been written about finding homes in foreign countries, and I think that Jessica Talbot manages to draw from the universal themes like longing, feeling lost, searching for a new haven while adding her very own, individual flavor, and that’s quite remarkable. Her story and her writing will touch everyone, because she evokes big questions about life that we all have asked ourselves, and it will be an especially heart wrenching experience for all those who have ever ventured out into the unknown to find their place in the world.
Review 2: Agustina M. (Argentina)
I loved reading this book!! I could not put the book down.Picaflor took me on a journey. A beautifully written story told with truth, honesty and depth which moved me deeply every time I turned the page over. You can expect smiles and tears hand in hand to come your way.
The author knows how to touch the reader as she tells her story about finding love, loosing loved ones, feeling despair, depression, and loneliness as well as her constant quest for happiness making one feel you’re with her all along.
I particularly loved the analysis and view on Argentine culture. As an Argentine myself who lived abroad for over a decade I thought she did a magnificent job portraying our culture as well as giving insight on that feeling of estrangement a traveller experiences, whether is at home or far away in a distant land.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who’s not afraid of being touched and faced upon a heartfelt emotional voyage.