by John Skinner

"Africa is as unique as its culture, both too easily misconstrued."

Tsabo Mashedi returns to his African village, the fictional but realistic Katama, after receiving an Oxford education. Tasked with providing drought relief through his work with the Red Cross, Tsabo is overwhelmed by the helplessness of his people and their own resistance to change and modernity. Running parallel to Tsabo's story are several competing storylines about foreign aid, diamond mining, traditional village life, and a mystery surrounding early colonizing efforts in Africa.

Skinner deeply explores the complex issues of modern Africa, as the characters wrestle with differing ideologies regarding relief efforts in Tsabo's drought stricken village. Conversations illuminate the advantages and disadvantages of reliance on foreign aid, the inevitability of corruption, and the lasting impact of colonization. The author clearly understands the conflicts in Africa between old and new, between tradition and modernity and between European and African ideals. He develops characters motivated by a wide range of values and personal histories from local villagers to UN workers to white missionaries. As the personal and political journeys of this wide ranging cast converge, the action lags but the contemplation of African issues thrives on the strength of dialogue, diary entries, maps, and logs.

While these multiple viewpoints help tell a complete story of Africa, the unfocused narration can be a distraction. In the end, Tsabo's story holds the novel together as his career advances and the multiple storylines converge in a final, dramatic push for post-colonial justice. SkinnerThe author effectively embeds real life issues of an under-developed African country in a story about returning home, finding solutions, and reconciling with the past.

Return to USR Home