• The Puma Years

  • A Memoir
  • By: Laura Coleman
  • Narrated by: Laura Coleman
  • Length: 12 hrs and 17 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (224 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In this rapturous memoir, writer and activist Laura Coleman shares the story of her liberating journey in the Amazon jungle, where she fell in love with a magnificent cat who changed her life.

Laura was in her early twenties and directionless when she quit her job to backpack in Bolivia. Fate landed her at a wildlife sanctuary on the edge of the Amazon jungle where she was assigned to a beautiful and complex puma named Wayra. Wide-eyed, inexperienced, and comically terrified, Laura made the scrappy, make-do camp her home. And in Wayra, she made a friend for life. 

They weren’t alone, not with over a hundred quirky animals to care for, each lost and hurt in their own way: a pair of suicidal, bra-stealing monkeys, a frustrated parrot desperate to fly, and a pig with a wicked sense of humor. The humans too were cause for laughter and tears. There were animal whisperers, committed staff, wildly devoted volunteers, handsome heartbreakers, and a machete-wielding prom queen who carried Laura through. Most of all, there was the jungle - lyrical and alive - and there was Wayra, who would ultimately teach Laura so much about love, healing, and the person she was capable of becoming. 

Set against a turbulent and poignant backdrop of deforestation, the illegal pet trade, and forest fires, The Puma Years explores what happens when two desperate creatures in need of rescue find one another.

©2021 Laura Coleman. “She Unnames Them” by Ursula K. Le Guin was published in the January 21, 1985, print edition of the New Yorker magazine. (P)2021 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

Critic Reviews

“Coleman's lovely English voice sounds emotionally honest, self-reflective, and expressive. She illuminates her story with a sense of place - its wet seasons, terrifying forest fires, dispiriting mass logging, and torturous mosquitoes.... Coleman's voice grows more confident as she finds her purpose and her people.” (AudioFile Magazine)

The Puma Years is a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the animals rescued by a sanctuary, Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi, in Bolivia. And it is the heartwarming story of the relationship that grew up between Laura Coleman and a puma, a relationship that only deepened over the years. I visited the sanctuary years ago - what a wonderful place, dedicated staff and passionate volunteers. Engaging and inspiring - you will love this book.” (Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace) 

“Readers will be hooked by Coleman’s compelling storytelling right from the opening pages.... There are poignant breakthroughs, unsettling setbacks, terrifying dangers, narrow escapes, heartbreaking separations and reunions, and hookups and relationships, all channeled through Coleman’s honest, wry, self-effacing, and always entertaining narrative.... This is an amazing tale, one that readers will remember.” (Booklist, starred review) 

What listeners say about The Puma Years

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But for the puma…

Before I was 1/3 through, I thought if I heard one more excruciatingly repetitive description of leaves, mud, mosquitos, rain, aches and pains, I would just stomp on my phone with the Audible app. I want to tell Laura Coleman to read Hemingway! Learn how to make a description terse and powerful, and then lose the compulsion to describe the same thing over and over. My sense is that about 4/5 of the book are these endless descriptive repetitions. I stuck with it (with plenty of fast forwards) because I wanted to hear about Wayra. Ms. Coleman’s descriptions of her were the saving grace. My personal focus is on an elephant conservation group in Kenya, but I admire people like Ms. Coleman who give so much to save animals in need.

6 people found this helpful

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Outstanding & Transformative

This book is utterly amazing. I can't tell you how Laura gently and honestly takes you on an absolutely fascinating journey.
Her descriptions are succinct & clear & you are able to easily picture the place, people, animals, bugs, etc.
she is changed by her experiences, (and so are we), good and bad and has learned to be able to dig into her self for strength and abilities she never understood she had. I am in awe of her and fantasize I could do what she and volunteers do and put up with, for the opportunity to be so close to these powerful yet broken cats and all the other animals.
The truth is I could and would never go. I don't the inner strength. But I can help from here in NYC. join her organisation and the others, (Panthera) that protect and help these magnificent cats heal from the inhumane treatment we have wrought.
I have said for many years the only way they can be truly saved is for humans to go extinct. It likley won't be Covid, but the next or one after that could be the absolutely deadly virus that will kill off a massive % of humans. Looks like they'll be the selfish ones. The few that remain will hopefully, finally allow Earth to heal itself.
The cats, the water, the Trees, the life of the planet will be allowed to thrive and make this place a paradise again. sans burning, cutting trees, burning fossil fuels, huge cargo ships emissions, all of it would stop. and repair.
Remember how things cleared up during the start of covid?
it won't be paradise if were still here, but it might really be a chance to learn to coexist.

God bless the Cats, the Trees the Oceans, the Moon and all of our gifts that we spit at.
They'll get as long without us--'
very well.

2 people found this helpful

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interesting, but part one a turn off

part 1 one sucks...after that, pretty interesting...just get past it and the rest is inspiring

2 people found this helpful

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Absolutely incredible!

This book was absolutely phenomenal. I felt like I was in the jungle with her, and was so invested in each of the unique, funny, and sassy animals. I bought a hard copy as well so I can “hold” onto this one - it’s that good

1 person found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars

Meh

I really wanted to like this book, but I struggled to finish it. There are no definitive chapters which made it difficult to understand and to follow the storyline. Maybe I should have read 1 passage a day. But if I'm honest, I just wanted it to be over.

After several days/attempts, I decided to try it via Audible and at first it was hard because it seemed like it wasn't narrated in a way that made it interesting. It seemed dry and there was no emotion. Then I realized the author was the one narrating it. (Sorry, if she ends up reading this review).

I couldn't get into it. Maybe it just wasn't the book for me.

1 person found this helpful

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Amazing book!

This book touched me so profoundly that I put off finishing it for days because I could not bear for it to be over. I plan to order multiple copies as gifts. The audible book is narrated by the author which made it even more special.

1 person found this helpful

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Puma

Really interesting book about a woman and a Puma who met in the jungles of Bolivia and remained friends for life.

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It is a jungle out there.

This book sort of made me wish to be in my 20s again and brave enough to venture into a foreign country. Not sure that I could have handled the parasites, but the allure of the jungle and the wildlife would certainly have tempted. This is a stark picture of what volunteers have (or had) to endure to volunteer in this area: poor nutrition, lack of proper medical (and veterinary) care, mosquitos, spiders, floods, and fires. More than that though, this book is about the relationships that the author develops with the animals, the other volunteers, and with herself. The author not only recounts her journey, but brings the reader with her. The descriptions of the animals and their personalities bring them to life. The thing about this book is that it is not just about her time and connection to the animals and the jungle, but it also focuses attention on the impacts of deforestation and the illegal pet trade.

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Only book I regret buying

Seems disjointed and story dragged on and on. Not worth the time I wasted listening to it 😬

1 person found this helpful

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Heart Wrenching and Important

This was so painful to listen to, but should also be a must read for all of us. The Rainforest is disappearing, the ecosystem has changed forever -- and not for the better. What to do with the displaced animals? Laura Coleman has given us a "fascinating glimpse into the lives of the animals rescued by a sanctuary, Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi, in Bolivia," and the lives of the people who actually have made it function. She has shared her story, her life goals, and her relationship with the animals -- especially the puma, Wayra, It is no surprise that most of the volunteers and workforce burn out eventually. So, kudos to Laura Coleman for writing this story so that mankind can take heed.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-24-21

Passion and Courage in Spades

This book really reminded me of The Overstory and this feels like another layer ..but Laura's story is real , passionate and moving.. She brings you into a world that we can see and hear, and understand, bit by bit, the level of suffering of the animals and the environment as people greedily eat up Mother Earth's resources.. I really enjoyed listening to the work Laura and the volunteers have done I feel I know a little bit more about the unsung heroes of our earth Thank you Laura and friends

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  • James Bradbury
  • 10-06-21

Loved it.

Loved to hear about Wayra and the other animals. The fact that the author narrates for the audio book makes it feel really personal like she is regaling her story to you.
It also makes me feel sad that people think they can take wild animals out of the jungle to have as pets and mistreat.
Even tho we hear about deforestation in our world it's hard to imagine what that means but this story really brings it home but not in a lecturey way.
This story makes you laugh and cry all at once. I feel I can relate to the bond Laura and Wayra have as I have a domestic cat that reminds me so much of the way Laura describes Wayra and I love her as tho she is my own child.

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  • NICOLA SMITH
  • 09-21-21

A wonderful and important story

Who knew non- fiction could be such a ‘page turner’ beautifully written. Gripping from the start, I completely fell in love with the animals especially Wayra the Puma and felt fully absorbed in the jungle throughout the book. In times when we can’t travel so far this book took me far away. Despite being heartbreaking at times it was thoroughly enjoyable, one of the best reads of recent years! Laura Coleman’s narration is dreamlike and really makes you feel that you are there.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-28-21

Captivating and inspiring

I loved this book and I have been recommending it to all my friends. The author takes us along with her on her journey of transformation in the Amazon jungle. Her experiences were intense, physically and emotionally, from fires and biting insects, to loss and injury. But she overcame her doubts and insecurities and found an incredible companion in the Puma Wayra and new purpose in her life. I had a dream when I was listening to this book that I was with a lion and I think that shows how much it resonated with me. You can't help but be touched and changed by reading this book.

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  • Eva Maria
  • 07-02-21

Inspiring, Moving, Didn’t want it to end!

I loved this book, and the author reading it gives it an authenticity and truth that is just incredible. You travel with her through the trials, terrors and beauty of the amazon jungle. You are engaged, with her, as she slips through her cast iron defences and fear of Wayra, to a tentative understanding, to a full blown adoration and love. And then there are the Pios and their purple poo, the pig and the red bra, the mischievous and traumatised monkeys and all manner of characterful beings. Listen and be prepared to laugh, cry and be very angry about the damage that we humans do to the natural world.

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  • Mark G
  • 06-20-21

Brave, funny, and passionate memoir: great writing

Laura Coleman has given us a brave, funny, and passionate account of her years in the Bolivian jungle, learning to live with and love a community of abused animals and the dedicated humans who've put themselves on the frontline to care for them. Laura narrates the book herself, capturing in impressive sensory detail her sense of growing empathy with all the life around her - from the pumas and other cats, the monkeys, parrots and more (more each year) that the camp exists to help, to the array of insects and bugs that surround and often invade her own body night and day, to the great but rapidly disappearing jungle itself and its flora, swamps and rivers. Alongside this, we share in her growing self-knowledge and her understanding of life before, during and after immersion in a life greater than our own. The Puma Years combines great humour in the way Laura draws out the human and other animal characters and situations they find themselves in with a clear-eyed, hard look at the realities of life on the edge of what humanity is doing to the wild and the free, and to ourselves. More than great 'nature writing': a call to awake.