“Volcano Rising: An Ambassador’s Diary” by John Kneale

This is a concise, well-written account of what it was like to be Canadian Ambassador to Ecuador during three of its most turbulent years.

John G. Kneale served in that country from 1998-2001, and kept a daily diary. With him were his wife and two teenaged daughters. The title refers to the volcano that was a constant threat and exploded literally above their heads in 1999. It also refers to the wave of discontent that is rising among the marginalized Indian populations.

Like other countries in the region, Ecuador’s economic progress is hobbled by political instability. While he was there, a democratically-elected president was deposed by the army. Seven Canadian oil workers were kidnapped and held for ransom in the jungle. Kneale points out that there is little pressure on our political leaders to deploy our resources to build a safer, more prosperous New World.

He also tells of the beauty of the country, and describes the Andes, the Amazon and the magnificent Galapagos Islands. It is altogether an excellent read, combining a picture of Ecuador with an up-close description of an ambassador’s life and challenges.

Review by Anne McDougall