Quirky first novel by short story writer Tinsley about the marital and family problems that a missionary's daughter, Hannah, faces with her ex-sixties-radical husband, Darwin Charles, and their four children. Hannah's childhood is spent in the rain forests of Ecuador where her parents are trying to convert the unfriendly natives. When her father turns up in a Life magazine photo-story with a spear up his ass (``a Janca lance jutting like a rigid tail. Wrapped around its handles, one of the captions tells us, is one of the Gospel tracts scattered over the jungle from the air.'') and her mother decides to carry on the mission anyway, she finds herself under the tutalage of Nimu, an older tribal woman. Nimu's tribal beliefs exert a strong pull on Hannah, especially when she is sent back to school in the states as a young woman, eventually meeting and marrying the eccentric Darwin at college and producing four offspring. Compelled by the unique drama of her father's death, Hannah mythologizes him to her kids, telling them the tale over and over again as a kind of bedtime story—not without psychological consequences. Darwin offers his own challenges as he strays from affair to affair, trying to figure out who he is in the current day and age. Forced to deal with mounting (at times amusing) domestic problems, Hannah finds sustenance in her own maternal instincts and her brush with the tribal past, ultimately making family life all hold together. Told in a seriocomic way—the missionary material is very tongue-in-cheek and the most satisfying—MY LIFE WITH DARWIN brings us into contact with a piece of the American dream we don't usually see, and well as showcasing Tinsley's ability to tell a good story.
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