A fine first novel depicts the experiences of the children of two American teachers at the CollÃ¨ge Ã‰vangÃ‰lique de Libamba in Cameroun in 1959, just before independence. Events are perceived from the point of view of thoughtful, sensitive Jessie Howells, 14, who--with her twin, Joshua, and whiny, clinging little sister Cassie--spends most of the year at Hope School, a boarding school for missionary children. The story opens with a terrifying journey as the Howellses suddenly take their children home early for vacation: the leader of the African opposition to French rule has been killed, and though the school is known to support the guerrilla Maquis, no white is safe traveling after dark. Later, Mr. and Mrs. Howells are reported missing, and as Jessie agonizes over the possibility of their death and struggles with her resentment toward Joshua, who lets her bear the brunt of coping with Cassie, she finally comes to understand Cassie's real need ""to know she's not all by herself."" The setting is brought to life with a wealth of authentic detail (the author, daughter of Presbyterian missionaries, also went to school in Cameroun), including the threatening political conflict--Jessie's new African friend has lost two uncles, brutally murdered; but the focus here is on Jessie's moral journey, developed with unusual insight into the relationships (spelled out in telling if overabundant detail), always in the context of the family's abiding faith. Rich in perceptively drawn characters, an absorbing story.