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Publisher's Summary

Leonora Gelb came to Peru to make a difference. A passionate and idealistic Stanford grad, she left a life of privilege to fight poverty and oppression, but her beliefs are tested when she falls in with violent revolutionaries. While death squads and informants roam the streets and suspicion festers among the comrades, Leonora plans a decisive act of protest - until her capture in a bloody government raid, and a sham trial that sends her to prison for life.

Ten years later, Andres - a failed novelist turned expat - is asked to write a magazine profile of "La Leo". As his personal life unravels, he struggles to understand Leonora, to reconstruct her involvement with the militants, and to chronicle Peru's tragic history. At every turn he's confronted by violence and suffering, and by the consequences of his American privilege. Is the real Leonora an activist or a terrorist? Cold-eyed conspirator or naïve puppet? And who is he to decide?

In this powerful and timely new novel, Andrew Altschul maps the blurred boundaries between fact and fiction, author and text, resistance and extremism. Part coming-of-age story and part political thriller, The Gringa asks what one person can do in the face of the world's injustice.

©2019 Andrew Altschul (P)2020 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

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An entitled incendiary in the Andes

Lori Berenson, a young New Yorker with an MIT education, flamed out as a zealot of Peru's guerrilla left. After her arrest in 1995 and her excruciating trials she won public hatred for spouting privileged venom. She was sentenced to life in a a freezing prison. That much is historical fact. In Altschul's half-fictionalized telling chronology and identities are bent to the arc of a postmodern story. The novel alternates between the mad certainties of a true-believing protagonist, and the debilitating agnosticism of a narrator who can't quite credit anything as fact. That's a detour into familiar lit-department terrain. Altschul seems to be probing a gulf between the fury of pre-2001 leftists and the bewilderment of "Dubya's" post-2001 opponents. To readers who remember prior decades, this detour feels unnecessary. But insofar as La Gringa is "true fiction" it's still a hell of a story. An interesting comparison would be with Phillip Roth's 1997 novel American Pastoral,