Abel journeys deep into the jungle where, in a twist of fate, he meets the mysterious Rima. Actually, she rescues him from a poisonous snake. Abel, who is a proper Venezuelan gentleman, has never met anyone like Rima. She communicates with birds, and will not harm animals or eat them. Her dresses are spun from spider silk and she has a voice like birdsong. (Audrey Hepburn played her in the movie version.) When men come to the forest to hunt animals, she hurls their poison-tipped arrows back at them from the trees. Or course, Abel falls in love with this wild girl and wants to bring her back to Caracas with him, but Rima refuses to leave the forest.
Unfortunately, the story ends horribly. Shall I tell you? A mob of fearful natives accuses Rima of being a witch. They chase her into the jungle and up into an enormous tree where she thinks she will be safe, surrounded by birds. But the natives set the tree on fire, and Rima the bird girl is burned to death.
Abel could not get over the loss of Rima. I could not get over the ending of the book. I read and reread it many times, and each time I started it, a tiny part of me whispered, Maybe things will turn out differently this time.