Bartels was working as a secretary in the Ghanaian Embassy when she received a phone call that would change her life. The king of Otuam, a small coastal town of 7,000 people, had passed away, and the tribal elders had elected her as his replacement.
Thus begins this winning tale of epic proportions, full of intrigue, royal court plotting, cases of mistaken identity and whispered words from beyond the grave. Upon arrival, King Peggy—who left Ghana three decades earlier and has since become an American citizen—found an uphill battle and vowed to tackle the issues plaguing her community: domestic violence, poverty and lack of access to clean water, health care and education. In doing so, Bartels faced issues of gender discrimination, corruption and inexperience. And of course there was the minor matter of her day job, inconveniently located an ocean away. Surrounded by a Greek chorus of aunties and cousins, Bartels worked to stamp out corruption and improve the lives of townspeople who warily regarded her as an interloper. She invested $30,000 of her own money into renovating the ramshackle palace she inherited and recruited donors to build schools and libraries outfitted with computers. Bartels and Herman (Mistress of the Vatican: The True Story of Olimpia Maidalchini: The Secret Female Pope, 2008, etc.) team up to craft a fast-paced potboiler. Florid description of the landscape, culture and characters work together to fully evoke the rhythms of African life.
Ultimately, readers come away with not only a sense of how King Peggy was able to transform Otuam, but also an understanding of how the town and its inhabitants transformed her.