A MAN CANNOT CRY by Gloria Keverne


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A large, enervating, preachy tale--about the macho-man adventures of a young American doctor in a Northern Rhodesian Quaker mission from 1958 to 1964. Arriving in Rhodesia too late to see his dying father after many years, Than Profane shocks the Quakers--mean-spirited twits all--by avoiding religion. . . and by going about his good works in shorts and a Stetson, trailed by a pet leopard. But Than, dubbed ""the Boy"" by Mission leader Matthew Tomlinson, wins over the local chiefs, starts a chain of bush clinics, and performs clever operations with limited equipment. Moreover, Than leaps into noisy sex (snarls, grunts, animal cries) with a variety of female dodos: the loose ladies of Salisbury; Suzannah, the imbecilic daughter of the American Ambassador, who blackmails Than into marrying her; and dear, blind Jennifer--who bears Than a son, Luke. (Later little Luke will die, but not because of Than's use of him to demonstrate vaccination to the natives.) As for Africans and their politics, Keverne--raised in Northern Rhodesia--refers to the ""impressionable"" natives, to the ""inexorable African mind,"" to nationalistic 1960s violence as ""avenging racism, as the whites had never known it or shown it."" Than, the Great White Doctor, does go native atone point to learn witch doctor lore; and there's a frenzied pilgrimage to a wise one who unfortunately dies before Than can hear what he's come for. (""Tell me now! The secret! The cure for cancer!"") But, while the scenery is often compelling and convincing, Keverne's evocation of the Lumumba/Tshombe period is unpersuasively shrill. And hero Than--an unintentionally funny mirror-version of old Ruark denting-doers, ""a cross between Albert Schweitzer and Tarzan of the apes""--cannot be taken seriously.

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 1984
Publisher: Morrow