Miller, a Mexico-based American journalist, celebrates Africa in this compelling travel memoir.
While awaiting her flight to Nairobi, Miller found herself in close proximity to an explosion at Charles de Gaulle Airport. Shaken but remaining levelheaded, she later boarded a plane to begin her African adventure. The tempo of the memoir is thereby set: fast-paced, occasionally bordering on the urgent, yet always coolly informative. Miller writes that during her time spent away from Africa, she missed it as she might “a close friend or beloved relative”—a sentiment palpable throughout the memoir, as the continent and its diverse array of people are described in tender detail. The author’s journey takes her to Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Nairobi men are “lean and long, with chiseled features,” whereas the Masai men, have “[d]eep-set eyes, [and a] penetrating gaze, yet soft and soulful.” This form of earnest portraiture captures the manner in which, as with the landscape, human physical characteristics change as the miles pass. The political landscape is also carefully considered, with a specific focus on the impact of colonialism and subsequent waves of tourism. The book’s true power lies in its ability to communicate the freedom and wonder of traversing through Africa’s wide-open spaces. Readers share in the amazement of seeing wild animals in their natural habitats and traveling under a “canopy of moon and stars.” The author describes spiritual aspects of the continent—for example, the legend of Nyami-Nymai, the river god of the Zambezi—yet this travelogue is also an intimate account of a deeply moving inner journey. Although Africa’s dangers are present, not central, the memoir has its thrills and spills, most notably a shipwreck in Zimbabwe. Focus is placed upon the positive impact the continent can have on the individual, which is helpful in debunking Western perceptions of Africa as merely perilous and politically unstable. Carefully researched and written with passion, the narrative buzzes with an energy drawn from the land itself.
A tender love letter to the plateau continent.