An Academy Award–winning filmmaker makes her literary debut with the stunning account of Gladys Kalibbala, who has devoted herself to rescuing lost children in Uganda.
Yu, who met her subject while working on a documentary about population issues and spent some time over the past few years shadowing her, provides a richly detailed account of this remarkable woman. Kalibbala has a feature column in the Kampala newspaper New Vision, in which she tries to reunite lost and/or abandoned children with their families—or to place the youngsters in settings where they will have a chance. The author delivers a moving collection of cases that have confronted Kalibbala, some of which have produced remarkable success and others, not so much. All of the stories have an immediacy because Yu has included generous amounts of dialogue and local color, all indicating the author’s observational skills and attention to details. Kalibbala emerges as a magnetic personality with a huge heart and boundless spirit, a strong faith in human beings (a faith that her clients sometimes betray), and a tongue she sometimes wields like an edged blade against those who lie to her. Many of the cases are enormously complex—none more so than the one that consumes seven chapters, the story of a boy whose identity keeps unfolding with increasing complexity as the narrative continues. (Yu gives us a break after a few chapters of his story and then returns to him.) There are also some wrenching accounts of betrayal, especially the case of a boy Kalibbala rescued who then stole from her—as did a family member. Wrenching, too, is the case of the autistic boy for whom Kalibbala struggles continually to find the right setting, “a place that could provide both freedom and constant supervision.”
An eloquent affirmation of the vast capacity of the human heart.