A beguilingly frank and unpretentious memoir of living in Kenya that portrays both the glamorous (safaris) and the pedestrian (power outages) sides of life in Africa.
Atwood, a 30-something divorcée with a young son, caught the Africa bug on her first visit there. In 1987, drained by nursing her terminally ill mother and upset by the legal suit her brothers had filed contesting her mother’s will, she impulsively decided to return—not as a conventional tourist, but to live there. She placed her son in a boarding school and moved to Kenya. Well-to-do and independent, Atwood was able to afford such decisions, but she was also sensitive and honest: although she was able to move into a large house (rented from Kenya’s president) and did not have to work, she was well aware of the enormous disparities between whites and average Kenyans. She did her bit by employing the inevitable huge staff, feeding them and their relatives, paying for medical treatment and schooling, and (unlike many ex-pats) actually getting to know the Africans. She also put up with unreliable mail service, experienced her first taste of press censorship (if the weekly International Herald Tribune contained criticism of Kenya, for example, it was not delivered), renovated a house, ran a carpet-making business, enjoyed a safari to the desert north (which few Westerners ever visit), and fell in love. (The man was a married balloonist at a camp in the Maasai Mara, and the affair caused her more heartache than happiness.) As the years passed, she became increasingly lonely and decided in 1991 to head home—having proved her resourcefulness to her own satisfaction.
A wry and engaging record, full of all those gritty details that make a place real, vivid, and not just an exotic destination.