The Puma Years
by Laura Coleman


West Maui Book Club Discussion Questions

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Any page numbers refer to iPad edition.


1. Have you ever volunteered your time to work with wild animals?

2. Is it also your opinion that “wild animals are not pets.” Pg 290. Did you know of anyone who had one as a pet? Think of the many TV shows of the 50s and 60s where wild animals were pets: Honey West’s ocelot named Bruce, Flipper, Elvis the alligator on Miami Vice, B. J. and the Bear, Gentle Ben, Clarence the lion on Daktari, Fred the cockatoo on Baretta.

3. Why do you think people put human emotions into animal expressions? Do you with yours?

4. Laura arrived afraid of the Puma and of Sammie, who both later became very close to her. How did she conquer her fears?

5. Laura asks Jane “Is it not dangerous?” Jane answers: “We each have to decide whether we think these animals are worth it.” Jane is referring to the caretakers but is it not also true in a global sense? Pg 17

6. At the park there’s a personnel hierarchy. Bolivians first, long timers, and then short timers. Would you say that’s true of the animal kingdom as well?

7. She describes the jungle as a living thing:
Pg 2 the jungle hums, speaking no language I’ve heard before
Pg 7 I stand alone in the screaming darkness
Pg 16 the forest looms menacingly on both sides, glutinous and heavy
Pg 49 the jungle really seems to listen to everything
Pg 140 the jungle was so loud, full of raging sharp heartbeats.
Pg 144 the jungle seems confused, the smells familiar but not, thicker than it was, wetter, sweeter.

8. Mila describes animals and people as onions: “You work so hard to peel off one layer of anxiety, only to expose another, and then another that you had absolutely no idea was hiding underneath. And because all of us really are no different from any of the animals here, because we’re all messed up and broken in our own individual ways, we’re like onions too.” Can you identify with this metaphor? If so, how. If not, why?

9. Obstacles:
Illegal wildlife trade, a multibillion-dollar industry
Monocrops of rice, sunflowers, and corn for overseas

10. Discuss the illegal exotic animal trade.

11. Discuss the cutting down of the Amazon for logging and to make way for the growing of big contract monocrops: rice, sunflowers, corn. Pg 157

12. Sign that marks the parque’s land: When the last tree is cut, when the last animal is hunted, when the last river is polluted, it will be than that man will realise that money cannot be eaten. Pg 156

13. Based on this book, what can you surmise about Bolivia’s animal rescue support?

14. Can you identify with Laura’s feeling -- “I’ve spent my life praying to be thin and now I am, and yet I realise that wasn’t what I was praying for at all. I was praying to feel comfortable in my own skin.” Pg 218

15. Discuss this quote from the book: “Environmental justice cannot be separated from social justice. The two are deeply intertwined.” Pg. 245 Environmental justice ~ is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

16. Social justice ~ refers to a political and philosophical theory that focuses on the concept of fairness in relations between individuals in society and equal access to wealth, opportunities, and social privileges.

Laura Coleman formed ONCA (Jaguar) to promote positive change by facilitating inclusive spaces for creative learning, artist support, story sharing, and community solidarity.

WMBC Questions compiled by: Elaine Gallant
West Maui Book Club
Aug. 2022