Journey to Bom Goody

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In her first novel, The Soft Room (2004), Karen Heuler dealt with disease, medical research, and issues of good and evil. In Journey to Bom Goody, the author raises similar questions.

The central character in Journey to Bom Goody is a retired electronics salesman named Forbes, who is still grieving over the accidental death of his wife and their only child. Now his only reason for living is to fulfill a dream. He will provide primitive tribes with generators, television sets, tape players, and tapes of American television shows, study their reactions to “civilization,” and report the important discoveries he expects to make.

On his way up the Amazon, Forbes is bitten by a deadly spider. Fortunately, a professional ethnobotanist, Tina, appears in time to save his life. Since his native guides keep deserting Forbes, generally to pursue women, Tina offers to let Forbes accompany her into the jungle, where she searches for the mysterious Bom Goody tribe, which supposedly has healing drugs unknown to the outside world.

These two enterprises have some hilarious results. For example, Forbes's assumptions as to what the natives think about his gifts are very different from the truth. Similarly, the feminist Tina is shocked by the practices of the real Amazons she meets. However, the explorers unintentionally cause injuries among the native children and even introduce a new disease to the area. On one level, Journey to Bom Goody is an exciting adventure story; on another, however, it is a thoughtful work that leaves readers with more questions than answers.