IN THE SHADOW OF THE SACRED GROVE by Carol Spindel

IN THE SHADOW OF THE SACRED GROVE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A product of mixed cultures herself--her father was Jewish and her mother a Southern Baptist--Spindel has the right qualifications to write about living in the midst of another culture, in this instance that of the northern part of the Ivory Coast. Her first book is a sensitive and realistic account of what it entails when one spends a year in a remote tribal village of 1600 people whose language and customs are completely foreign. Tom, Spindel's husband-to-be, had gone ahead to Africa to begin bis Ph.D. research in cultural geography, and Spindel's arrival required certain adjustments on the part of her and the villagers, who had become accustomed to a male foreigner in their midst: a foreign woman was att entirely different entity. She finds it difficult to accept the lack of privacy--one's house is supposed to be open to all; Tom's translator, a charming rogue, resents her prior claims to Tom; and she is frustrated by her inability to communicate. Determined to learn at least one of the local languages, she is soon able to talk with the villagers, and becomes friends with some of the women, in particular. At the same time, she is constantly aware, as are the villagers, of the great differences between them. Clitorectomy and polygamy are still practiced, and a woman's only roles are that of mother, and servant to her husband. A potter, Spindel spends her happiest times working with the women potters of the village. There are no significant dramas, beyond the usual cycle of birth, marriage, and death, but she returns home with the right lessons learnt: a respect for older and other ways, and an appreciation of the hard lives of the villagers and her own comparative good fortune. Not earth-shattering, but worthwhile for Spindel's insights into the difficulty, and ultimately the value, of building bridges. An honest and engrossing account.

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 1989
Publisher: Vintage/Random House