Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

The Leper Compound – Book Review

June 5, 2008

The Leper Compound by Paula Nangle

“The Leper Compound” is the story of Colleen, the daughter of a white Rhodesian settler. Colleen is growing up in Rhodesia around the time of the Rhodesian civil war and the creation of the state of Zimbabwe. This is Paula Nangle’s first novel and it is fantastic for a first novel. Nangle is clearly very familiar with her subject matter – she lived as a child in southern Africa with her missionary parents. Touching on racial tensions in both Zimbabwe and South Africa, Nangle’s book should challenge so many Americans who consider Africa to be a mono-culture.

All this being said, this book really just wasn’t for me. It was the moving story a girl growing up and searching for connection, about racial tensions and the aftermath of colonialism. Sounds like a great book for me, right? However, Nangle’s storytelling style just isn’t my favorite. Although the writing was beautiful, the story felt as if it was being told from a distance, as if Colleen never managed to attain a connection even with herself. Perhaps this is what Nangle was attempting and she is just that genius, or perhaps that is simply her style. It is not by any means a bad style, I just prefer a more personal method of story telling, one that is more in the head of the main character.

So although this book wasn’t for me, it might be for you. I am amazed that this is a first novel, and will definitely be looking to give Nangle’s next book a try.

Buy this book on Amazon

Monique and the Mango Rains – Book Review

May 20, 2008

Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway

In 1989 Kris Halloway became a member of the Peace Corps and was sent to Mali in Africa. She went to help people, and immerse herself in another culture. She went and came back changed. Other than perhaps the fellow Peace Corps volunteer who would one day become her husband, the person who had the greatest impact on Kris’ time in Mali was Monique Dembele, Kris’ host and the village midwife. Monique had a love for life, good humor, and a friendly, comforting demeanor.

According to my contact at Literary Ventures Fund, Kris originally published her book through a textbook company that sold only directly to professors through a mail order catalog, a company that had no connection to major bookstores. Thank goodness that Literary Ventures Fund got involved! It would have been a shame if this book hadn’t been released to a wider audience.

This book is valuable for a number of reasons. First, it describes in a very straight-forward way the lives of these people in this small village in Mali. Although Kris occasionally pushes back against parts of the culture she disagrees with (female circumcision, for one), this is done in a decidedly un-paternalistic way. Second, the book is, quite simply, wonderfully written. The words flow beautifully, and the emotions are real and completely accessible to the reader.

I picked this book up Friday morning while I was on the train on my way to the airport. While I was reading nothing else existed for me but this village and these people: not the people on the train talking on their cell phones, not crying children at the airport, not airline announcements, nothing. Thank goodness I finished before my flight was announced! I will give this book the highest praise I can: even though I read it a mere 5 days ago, I’ve already bought another copy and given it as a gift.

Buy This Book on Amazon: Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali


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