Anarcho Grow Pura Vida in Costa Rica is a modern story that carefully blends author T.A. Sedlak’s knowledge of Costa Rica and cannabis cultivation with socialist ideals in an American capitalist dominated world.
Protagonist Ben Starosta travels through Latin America under the guise of teaching English while helping small agrarian communities develop illicit crops and reach new markets. His expertise in the risky cannabis trade funds community projects like schools and libraries, and earns him the loyalty of the communities he helps. Tension builds, as his dedication to the people is viewed as dangerous criminal activity by the CIA agents assigned to his case.
Sedlak’s characters are pleasantly three dimensional and stand as symbolic representations of larger populations. The comical yet terrifying pair of agents tasked with the apprehension of the people’s hero Starosta seem to be analogous to the U.S. government’s reaction to social movements in Latin America. The pair demonstrate cunning and calculated cruelty, exploitation of native people and resources, and classic violation of human rights in the name of law enforcement.
In contrast, Starosta serves as a vehicle for socialist thought and the desire to improve quality of life for the long-oppressed workers of Latin America. He reads Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and Emma Goldman, all of whom provide food for thought and twists in plot. His camaraderie with the people is evident as he works the field, side-by-side with his friend Chi Cho, and his romantic sense of adventure makes him an empathetic figure.
Sedlak, much like his main character Starosta, discovered Costa Rica as a volunteer. The author’s firsthand understanding of Pura Vida, the Costa Rican way of life, is evident as the characters travel throughout the narrative. The characters’ movements allow the author to employ his personal knowledge of Costa Rican geography, people, and points of interest. The result is a remarkably believable setting and cast.
In addition to exquisite depictions of scenery and people, the novel presents a suspiciously accurate account of guerrilla cannabis cultivation. I was left with a distinct impression that the author has some firsthand experience in that as well. Much like the plant, the book develops rapidly, is generally uplifting, and may cause paranoia. Of course, individual results will vary.
Anarcho Grow is Sedlak’s debut novel. Intricate cover art as well as a progression of visual vignettes at the beginning of each chapter are skillfully illustrated by Leslie LePere. All of the elements of publishing come together nicely and make the book easy to read and a pleasure to recommend.