THE BACKYARD TRIBE by Neil B. Shulman

THE BACKYARD TRIBE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Amusing story of a Masai tribe living in an Alabama doctor's backyard. Second-novelist Shulman (What? Dead Again?, 1980) also wrote the script for Doc Hollywood. Here, Shulman weaves two themes into one tale. The first is the spread of electronics even to a remote African village; the second shows the effect of primitive life on civilization when an African tribe moves itself to the States. Dr. Bud Pane and his gardener wife Gail take a vacation in the African bush, where Bud's instantly dragooned by medical nuns and finds himself drowned in work as he sews up a Masai warrior shredded by a lion. Adopted by the tribe, he begs them to allow him to take shining, 11-year-old Hope to Alabama, where surgery can save her rheumatic heart from its failing mitral valve. Bud passes through disgusting ceremonies and now bears his own spear and shield, so the tribe lets Hope go. When he and Gall fly home, he leaves his gold card with a travel agent to cover Hope's flight. Surprise, not only Hope but her medicine man, family, and many tribal members accompany her on the gold card to the doctor's home and set themselves up in his backyard, where they build mud huts in Gail's flower garden. The fun involves the tribal medicine man working in a modern hospital's emergency room and bringing his ancient medical wisdom to bear on the wounded. Also, Masai believe that they own all the cows on earth, and so begin herding local cows into Bud's backyard. The climax brings on Oprah Winfrey and Global News Network broadcasting from Hope's operating room and the Masai village in Africa both at once. Much funnier than it has any right to be, perhaps because Shulman somewhat restrains the ersatz uproar and totally stupid plot, much like those in Max Shuiman's witless old squirrel-houses, Barefoot Boy with Cheek and Rally 'Round the Flag Boys!

Pub Date: March 15th, 1994
ISBN: 0012025062
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: St. Martin's