Mark Wentling

I was born in Wichita, Kansas in 1945, but 'made' in Africa. I left Kansas in 1970 to become a Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo. This initial two-year assignment turned into a life-time career in Africa and after 45 years I find myself still in Africa doing humanitarian assistance. I have had the privilege to visit or work in all 54 African countries. My Africa Trilogy is a testament to my lifetime involvement with this vast and complex continent.

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"With impressive scope and flourishes of magical realism, the book transcends what might seem to be mundane storylines to instead feel fully epic."

Kirkus Reviews


Wichita State University Alumni Achievement Awar, 2015: Africa's Heart: THE JOURNEY ENDS IN KANSAS

Hometown Wichita

Favorite author Gabriel Marquez

Favorite book 100 Years of Solitude

Day job Country Director of International humanitarian NGO in Burkina Faso

Favorite line from a book It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplin he fell madly in love with him. Joseph Heller's "Catch-22"

Favorite word jackleg

Unexpected skill or talent writing at an advanced age

Passion in life helping others


Pub Date:
ISBN: 978-1935925552
Page count: 532pp

An ambitious novel concludes Wentling’s (Africa’s Release, 2014) African trilogy.

Letivi, chief of the Ataku village, is faced with a modern dilemma: wealth disparity is growing in the village between those families who have sent children to work in Europe (who then send money back home to their families) and those who have not. Letivi’s goal of correcting this problem via a wealth-sharing agreement among the villagers is hindered by his own lack of a wife or child; as a clan leader says, “Chief Letivi is without a wife or children and thus knows little about the lives we live as we struggle to support our families.” Letivi, a light-skinned half-caste, is also burdened by the secrets of his own parentage: he is the son of Bobovovi, an American Peace Corps volunteer chosen by the moon god and consumed by a sacred baobab tree 20 years before. A hemisphere away, a newspaper reporter named Robin is tracking down a mysterious man named J.D., whose disappearance shocked the town of Gemini, Kansas, and whose trail will lead Robin all the way to Africa. Destinies converge, and the generational saga that Wentling began in Africa’s Embrace arrives at its conclusion. Wentling, an American, admits in the introduction that the book (and the whole trilogy) is based on his four-decade career in Africa, and indeed, the works concern themselves with more than literary pursuits. Logistical issues affecting rural Africa—sustainable farming, education, the evolving role of the village, etc.—are raised in considerable detail, and the activist’s call to awareness is ever present at the periphery. As a novel, the prose tends toward the simple and declarative, though the details of village life and the inclusion of village folklore are immersive enough to lend emotional believability to characters and their actions. Readers of the previous two books will feel a fuller connection to the history of this world (and they’ll be more forgiving of the concluding volume’s 522-page length), yet there’s enough here for the work to stand on its own. With impressive scope and flourishes of magical realism, the book transcends what might seem to be mundane storylines to instead feel fully epic.

A satisfying novel of interconnectedness and community.

Pub Date:
ISBN: 978-1935925446
Page count: 232pp
Second installment of a trilogy narrating the fate of a fictional West African village and the foreigner who once lived among them.

Peace Corps volunteer Wentling (Africa’s Embrace, 2013) returns with a detailed novel that looks at what happened to a man named David and the West African village he lived in decades ago. This sequel opens with J.B., an eccentric man living in Kansas who takes daily long walks and performs rituals that peak around the full moon. The town, at first puzzled by J.B., grows to embrace him and his peculiar habits. It’s revealed that J.B. once lived in Africa and was, after he became deranged, extracted from the continent under mysterious circumstances. The village of Ataku, where J.B. lived, remembers when Bobo (as they called him) phenomenally disappeared inside a baobob tree, confirming their belief that Bobo was a special conduit to their ancestors. Meanwhile, Celestine, a village woman Bobo slept with, finds herself pregnant. She receives help from a healer who communes with plants and will train her to do the same. The village has decided to appease Bobo in the spirit world by repairing their roads and undertaking other developments, even when these developments attract more visitors than villagers are used to. Back in Kansas, J.B. disappears; while in Africa, Celestine begins talking to the baobob tree, hoping for Bobo’s return. The villagers struggle with poverty despite their developments, and drama arises as the corrupt government becomes involved. The village’s eventual leader, it turns out, may be Bobo’s own child. Celestine gives birth to a son, and the village chief decides that this son will take his place, prompting a complicated lie about the child’s origins. Bobo’s son becomes a natural leader but is determined to “meet” his real father, leading to a final transcendent experience with the baobob tree. The novel succeeds as a portrait of a fascinating village and its politics, even if this particular portrait is outdated. The villagers’ communal struggles and triumphs, especially when facing off against governmental officials, make for a compelling story. It’s somewhat surprising to find a white foreigner like Bobo so enthusiastically embraced as a spiritual talisman among the villagers; regardless, throughout the novel, the culture’s traditions are visible, such as the detailed ritual that makes Bobo’s son their new chief. There’s plenty of momentum as readers come to discover how various storylines intertwine, and by novel’s end, everything is so well-resolved that it’s difficult to guess what adventures the final installment holds.

Although there’s less ethnography and more drama than in the previous book, this well-drawn story will suit readers already interested in recent West African history.

An American diplomat assigned to war-ravaged Somalia struggles to comprehend its interminable troubles.

Ray Read’s career in the U.S. Foreign Service seems permanently stalled. He is sent to serve in Somalia, a country whose history and culture he knows virtually nothing about. Greeted enthusiastically by Ambassador Overholster when he arrives, Read is almost immediately thrust into the Byzantine and contentious negotiations that define Somalia’s political life. He discovers a nearly ungovernable nation cleaved by internecine conflict and a litany of warring tribal factions. Read needs to broker a peace between the two most powerful warlords, Aidid and Mahdi, for any progress to be made, but he can’t even get them in the same room. In addition, the ancient acrimony between Somalia and Ethiopia haunts the country’s prospects for peace. Read is initially assigned to a committee devoted to rehabilitation and reconstruction. But his early success wins him a promotion (albeit, an unwanted one) to the disarmament and security committee, charged with a much more daunting mission, compelling Read to mingle with all manner of unsavory types. He quickly becomes a minor celebrity of sorts because of his tenacity and light touch but struggles to understand Somalia’s apparently intractable problems. Meanwhile, he takes a short holiday to Kenya, where he strikes up a romance with a young, beautiful local. In his book, Wentling (Africa’s Heart, The Journey Ends in Kansas, 2015, etc.) shows that he’s a masterful researcher, and his exhaustive command of Somalia’s complex challenges remains admirable. He paints a lively—though appropriately grim—tableau of its extraordinary ailments. But the reader is left with a multitude of questions about the story’s protagonist. Read dominates the narrative while turning out to be little more than a cipher in the unfolding political drama. Readers discover he has marital problems, though not much more than that, and they know little about his motivations for becoming a diplomat in the first place. The plot marches toward the climactic “black hawk down” debacle without providing much insider insight. This is an exceptional piece of political analysis—both thorough and nuanced—but unsatisfying as a human drama.

A wonderful account of Somalia’s troubles that fails to deliver a fully developed protagonist. 

Page count: 214pp

As Wentling’s (Dead Cow Road, 2017, etc.) fifth novel opens, Juan Eduardo de Mejia begins sharing personal lifetime memories with the rat he’s named “Savior” who lives in his jail cell walls.

Set in the mid-20th century, Juan gushes about being the son of distinguished, respected physician Don Ernesto Tomás Mejia, who’d saved a poverty-stricken community from certain doom when catastrophic floodwaters saturated their homeland of Sinoteca decades earlier. A local hero, his father also rose to prominence as the leader of their rebuilt city. Wentling writes his narrative with an uncanny urgency as Juan’s life plays out over a series of flashbacks and vividly described scenes, including Sinoteca’s rich history and Don Ernesto’s marriage to Elena Portillo Del Campo, Juan’s mother. As his history is revealed, Juan confesses that his birth caused the tragic death of Elena, a woman “he never knew but idolized.” Even after falling into a trauma-induced coma, his father became nominated to run for president of their home country, Catrasia. Wentling’s novel is well-paced, assuredly written, and cleverly plotted: Juan’s jail sentence is left unexplained until the final third of the book. The protagonist recounts further the story of his childhood: He was raised by a foster family in the elevated mountainous region surrounding Sinoteca and renamed Antonio Gomez to shield him from his father’s political enemies. In adulthood, Juan/Antonio becomes a beloved schoolteacher, then relocates to the Sinoteca Valley, where he becomes an ally to the impoverished populace there and a witness to the region’s simmering social injustices. His advocacy on behalf of the indigent citizens and defiance against Sinoteca’s new dictatorship becomes violent and lands Juan/Antonio in prison as the novel comes full circle with a particularly satisfying grace and balance. Though Wentling waits until the final third of his tale to reveal the nature of his lonely protagonist’s destiny, readers will appreciate the narrative tension he cultivates and the strong sense of human rights leadership and sacrifice drummed up by his compellingly altruistic lead character.

An entertaining, uniquely constructed story of redemption, class warfare, and consequence, with themes both relevant and timely.


Literary fiction

I have published a number of professional articles over the years on Africa's development predicament, but it is only now in my first book, "Africa's Embrace," (the first in a trilogy) that I begin to tell my African unlike any other that has ever been told before. I dedicate my novel to my six children, their mothers and to all women in Africa who have taught me so much about the continent. My novel is actually a thinly-veiled autobiographical account of my initial years working and living in an African village. I try to convey a powerful, emotional story that combines magical realism with a colorful description of the practical challenges of living and working in Africa. My book introduces a cast of unforgettable characters and forces the reader to enter deep into the heart of Africa. My intent is to entertain, enrich and educate. My fictional account is about the adventures of a young man from Kansas who travels to Africa and becomes caught up in a mystical, larger-than-life adventure. Upon his arrival, he is renamed “Bobovovi” and chosen by the spirit world to ride the “mountain moonbeam” and become “transformed” by an ancient baobab tree. Bobovovi does his best to make his goodwill prevail, but his humanitarian work is fraught with unforeseen, unusual challenges. He moves from one surprising adventure to another. Africa changes him in unimaginable ways, and those changes are used to teach a wide variety of lessons. These lessons help the reader to better understand Africa and Africans. My book is a good read for anyone interested in Africa, as well as the cross-cultural experience and practical challenges of living on the continent. Those who are trying to help people anywhere—through work with an NGO, in the private sector, volunteer or other manner—will find this book to be an eye-opener. Fiction fans who wish to be transported to a different time and place will be thrilled by this spellbinding story. My book is meant to be playful, dramatic, and professional. It is a serious literary work that should move readers to laughter and tears, as well as keep them guessing about what’s behind the next bend in the road. My book should be of use to university African studies and cultural anthropology departments. And, I have no doubt that all Africans will also find my book of much interest. This first book in my African Trilogy is available on

ISBN: 978-1935925316