A sequel set in sub-Saharan Africa about a boy who grows to adulthood, becomes a safari guide, and takes a stand against poachers and a childhood nemesis.
In Cousins’ previous novel, Waiting for Bones (2011, etc.), American tourists on a photo safari face a life-or-death struggle to survive in the African wilderness when their guide, Bones, disappears, his fate a mystery. This novel came about, Cousins says in an author’s note, because the question of Bones’ disappearance was “too intriguing to ignore.” Her answer is an inspired, eventful coming-of-age story. It starts with Bones’ remembering his life as an impoverished 10-year-old boy, living on a small farm in his African village; he’s a gifted young carpenter who eventually realizes his dream career as a safari guide. Bones’ passion for knowledge and his soulful connection to nature—especially for elephants, whose populations are being decimated by ruthless poachers armed with military-grade weapons—shape the man he later becomes. So does a loss, chillingly depicted in the book’s first chapter, that affects his whole family; it also presages what’s to come in the unsavory form of a man named Skinner, a sadistic bully-turned–dangerous adversary. A skillful storyteller, Cousins gives weight and color to small events, such as the processes of crafting a wooden drawer and curing and drying impala meat, and to pivotal scenes, such as the horrific slaughter of an elephant herd. The environments of the village and wilderness are keenly observed, as is the book’s rich cast of characters, including Bones’ love interest, Mima Swale; Granny Nobbs and her attack chickens; cousin Squeak, who’s lost to a crocodile (“Death was never far from our world”); nurturing Uncle Stash; and hefty truck driver Chiddy, who has a face “as round and shiny as a kukui nut.” Although it isn’t necessary to have read the previous book, those who have will appreciate how the author gives Bones’ abandonment of the American tourists a sense of high-stakes urgency.
A deeply felt coming-of-age story rich with respect for the natural world.