Deep in the tropics of Peru…

Shadows in the Selva


A novel of one woman’s choice to follow her heart into the Amazon rainforest



Hunched forward on a camp stool, Michelle Greenwald spun the knob of the scope and brought into focus a creature more mythological than real. Obsidian eyes glared from a ghost-gray face and a crown of dark feathers radiated skyward, like a shaman’s mask. Even from her distance of a hundred feet, the power of the animal was palpable. The female harpy eagle—almost the size of a wolf—gripped a branch with dagger-sharp talons. The woman’s hair follicles tingled and her pulse quickened—the primeval reaction to a predator.


These opening lines of my unpublished novel, Shadows in the Selva, will lure you into the Amazon rainforest of Peru, where temperatures soar with the eagles and mysterious birds give birth to caterpillar-like offspring.

Michelle, a biology professor in her mid-fifties, travels to the Amazon to study harpy eagles and meets Julián Olaya, a Peruvian man in his forties. When he identifies the call of a highly secretive bird, it triggers the beginning of a nature-based relationship that gradually extends to other birds, secretive mammals, and the stars of the Southern Hemisphere. In spite of their language differences, she and Julián share a connection with nature that she has never felt with anyone else. Michelle’s attraction to Julián gradually becomes an obsession that affects her marriage and the entire trajectory of her life. Eventually, Michelle discovers a secret that Julián attempts to hide from her, and in the end, she is forced to make a final, painful choice between the Peruvian man she loves and the rainforest itself.

Where did I get the idea for this novel? My blog post, “The Lure of the Harpy,” explains how I found myself beneath a harpy eagle nest in the Amazon rainforest.

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