In this discerning memoir of self-discovery, a veterinarian and farmer from Zambia unveils her inner workings and concludes that faith, hope, love, God and family are what matter most.
Debut author Kingdom hints early on that sex, violence and bad language may crop up as, at age 37, she looks back at her life thus far. This opening caution seems unnecessary. Sexual escapades are few and rendered in circumspect fashion. Violence is mostly confined to certain harsh veterinarian procedures, including the intrauterine dissection and piece-by-piece removal of a dead or undeliverable livestock fetus to save the mother’s life and spare the farmer the cost of a cesarean. Otherwise, violence lurks as a threat, as when the author, who is white, is warned to stay out of the black part of Pretoria while a student there. And rather than bad language, there are high-minded and even quirky chapter-ending philosophical discussions Kingdom imagines having with a younger sister (“Each religion needs to be seen as an internal organ on the body of earth”). The memoir is unconventionally organized by themes (births, deaths, growth, lessons, disease, fears, fires, rhyme, love, death and beliefs) rather than by chronology. Fears range from deeply etched memories of venomous snakes and giant spiders to musings about whether God is really good. A chapter on disease lists the author’s physical and mental ailments. But Kingdom, without saying so herself, emerges not as a sufferer but as a sturdy type perfectly attuned to the rigors of life in the Zambian bush, ensconced in family and essentially happy to be alive beneath the deep blue African sky. Readers should not expect much about contemporary Zambia or her veterinarian practice; these are hardly her main topics. Nor are the lessons she learns always profound. In one typical example, her chapter on disease builds to the realization that “we get sick.” Though raised in a secular family, she more recently conceived a deep faith in God and felt his presence. But she makes clear that she is still a work in progress with far to go on her journey of self-understanding.
Worth a sequel when this deeply introspective author is further down the road.