Among the Volcanoes

by Omar S. Castaneda

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The brief summary of "Among the Volcanoes".

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Chapters One through Five
Isabel Pacay, the oldest of four children, is a teenage girl taking care of the family because her mother, Manuela, is very ill. She realizes that "by being the first, she was now the last,’’ because she must now put everyone else's needs before her own.

When Manuela has another attack, Isabel heads into town to find Eziquel. There she finds many of the villagers gathered around an American imploring the mayor to allow him to do his medical work in their village. Because of the hostile political climate, however, the natives are suspicious of strangers. Isabel, who loves learning, is intrigued by this man who has come from so far away.

Chapters Six through Ten
The American approaches Isabel. Nobody will talk to him, and he hopes Isabel will be different. She learns that his name is Allan Waters and that he is a medical student working on an illustrated book of symptoms that will allow patients to communicate with doctors who do not speak their languages.

On Sunday, everyone gathers for Mass, and Isabel goes to confession before the service. She admits to feeling resentful at being forced to stay home and take care of the house instead of going to school as she would prefer. The priest assures her that her feelings are normal and tells her that she has committed no sin.

The whole village turns out for a celebration of the newly installed waterline that will give the village a constant and reliable source of water. The festival includes music and a soccer game in which Lucas, one of Isabel's brothers, and many of the other boys will play. Isabel's family leaves the house to go to the festival, and Manuela sees how badly Isabel wants to go. In a tender moment, she insists that her daughter go.

Chapters Eleven through Fifteen
As Manuela's condition worsens, Isabel grieves the loss of the person her mother once was. She was so vibrant and full of life, and now she can barely walk by herself. Isabel suggests to Eziquel that they should take Manuela to Sololá to the Western hospital. He considers it. Alfredo tells Eziquel of the red candle and the other signs that have been left at their house. Isabel's brother runs in to tell them that the army is in town with another proclamation, and the children go to hear it.

Alfredo, Isabel, Allan, and Isabel's siblings all accompany Manuela on her trip to the hospital. In the hospital, the doctor conducts a basic examination but wants to draw blood and take X-rays to confirm his diagnosis. Manuela refuses, and Allan persuades the doctor to give him the medication for her anyway. Allan asks Isabel to meet him at the soccer field the next day.

Feeling alone, Isabel visits her wise teacher for advice. He tells her how much teaching means to him and that she must find a way to pursue her dream. She feels lost, and he tells her that it is important that she ask herself what it is she really wants and not be afraid of the answer. Later that day, Manuela has another attack, and Isabel encourages Alfredo and Eziquel to use the Western medicine. They agree. Isabel tells Lucas that she wants to marry him, but that she also wants to be a teacher. She only asks that he promise that they will try to find a way for her to be both wife and teacher. He cannot see a way, but he agrees they will try. She is thrilled.

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