Readers often ask novelists, “Where do you get your ideas?” Experience, observation, news stories are common responses. Imagine, though, you’re an environmentalist about to embark on a long-planned adventure to the Amazon. You wake up at 4 a.m. and decide to check your email. There among the usual messages is an intriguing one from a fourteen–year-old girl in India asking for your advice—about a tiger. What would you do?

While Paul Rosolie made his trip to the rainforest, he didn’t forget the teenager’s email. Instead he recognized his deep personal experiences in the jungles of India put him in the singular position to give us The Girl and the Tiger (Owl Hollow Press)—an unbelievable story.

Unbelievable—in the truest sense of the word.

It’s farfetched that Isha, an “utterly untamable” fourteen year old, runs away from her grandparents’ home after discovering an orphaned tiger cub. It’s improbable that Kala, the young tiger cub, trusts a human and clings to her for her very existence. It’s amazing that along their journey they meet an elephant boy, a priest and a hunter, each of whom play a meaningful and personal role in helping Isha achieve her goal—releasing the tiger into the jungle once she’s able to survive on her own.

Sound vaguely familiar? There’s no yellow brick road, but there is a valley, a forest, and a mountain, and eventually a jungle. There are herds of elephants, including a blind elephant who accompanies them on their journey, as well as one that measures in at eleven feet tall. There are hyena brothers aching to eat Isha alive. There are cobras, goats, deer, monkeys and butterflies.

But there’s more. A monsoon, forest fires and a lack of food and water. And a mountain to ascend, up, up, up through the clouds, where each and every step—or misstep—could spell certain doom for the lot of them.

Then there are the tribes and government officials, each vying for a piece of India—old or modern—with their foreign languages and selfish beliefs that these invaders should be destroyed along with the “killing machine” they are trying to protect.

Finally, there are battles to be fought and life and death decisions to be made. Certainly more than this fourteen-year-old bargained for when she first “put her hands on the tiger’s head […] stroked its oversized ears, and then pulled it into her arms.”

The Girl and the Tiger is three coming of age stories in one—for Isha, Kala, and India. For those of us who’ll never travel to India, Rosolie brings its beauty and struggles to life for us. Our beliefs and values are challenged. Do we save and protect the environment or embrace a modern world?

Ask yourself, if one girl could save a tiger, what could we all do together? And what if we were as determined as Isha to do it?

In his author’s note, Rosolie readily admits that, unlike the caveat put forth by most novels, he cannot say any likeness to real-life individuals is purely coincidental. Instead he says, “The story […] is less my own creation and more a collection of moments, truths and legends. It is a necklace of a book. I only added the string.”

The Girl and the Tiger is now available.

PAUL ROSOLIE is a naturalist, author, and award-winning wildlife filmmaker who has specialized in the western Amazon for nearly a decade. Along with running a conservation project called Tamandua Expeditions that uses tourism to support rainforest conservation, Paul’s work has taken him to some of the last dark places on the map.

As an author Paul’s mission is to blend adventure and conservation with the aim of reaching a broader audience, and including more people in an ecological call to arms.