Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle In Person

By Kate X Messer

July 21, 1997: 

Jennifer Harbury:
Book People,
Saturday, July 19

Despite the soothing sound of the soul's own four-letter word, love incites and raises some mighty powerful, hell-raising hackles: like the desperate need to wail and gnash and rend and howl; or the all-consuming desire to hurtle oneself into the void; or the sole vein left to tap when the heart is drained and dry and dark and desolate. Love is like that. Simple.

Jennifer Harbury has survived the last few years on nothing but love. What else could make a woman endure the mental and emotional shellshock that accompanied her on journeys to discover the truth behind the lies about her husband's disappearance in Guatemala in 1992? What else could make a woman battle through the foul stench of bureaucratic sleight of hand and malicious misdirection and misinformation? What else would make a woman bare her soul for all to see, releasing sensitive information that could very well put her own life in danger?

Harbury, a Harvard-educated attorney, first traveled to Guatemala to assist refugees of the embattled country's civil war. There, in 1990, she met Efraín Bámaca Velásquez, or Commander Everardo, as he was known, a Mayan resistance leader against the Guatemalan government's brutal rule. Against all odds they fell in love. They married.

Theirs is a love story like none other, really, yet in many ways like every other. This book is as difficult to put down as it is to pick up. Harbury pierces deeply with her unflinching prose. Yet at the same time, her words of courage and brazen commitment provide an ointment to the sting felt universally by those wrenched by love.

...I stand toward the middle of the grave as they dig, not wanting to seem too eager, but needing to figure out which side of the rectangle the head will be on. I have to see the teeth, to look for that gap in the bright white half circle of the lower jaw. Once again the image of Everardo laughing as we lie together on the sofa comes to mind with a jolt. I will know immediately if it is him....

While essentially a document of her struggle to find the truth behind the U.S. and Guatemalan governments' cover-ups and a fearless testimonial to the injustices and horrors of the Guatemalan civil war, her new book Searching for Everardo: A Story of Love, War, and the CIA in Guatemala (Warner Books, $24 hard) actually -- and more essentially -- is a love story.

Harbury's story doesn't end with Searching for Everardo. Her quest for the truth has become an ongoing life mission. On Saturday, July 19, 7pm, Harbury will speak at BookPeople, present and sign her new book, and discuss continued efforts to learn the full truth about Everardo's fate, and the roles played by the Central Intelligence Agency and other U.S. officials in his murder and ensuing cover-up. Her work assisting the Guatemalan people continues as well; you can learn more about the Mayan resistance in Guatemala at the booksigning.

No, Harbury's story doesn't end with the last sentence of Searching for Everardo: "To quote a favorite phrase of the CIA's, `The truth shall set ye free.'" For her, it is just the beginning. Simple. Love. -- Kate X Messer

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