This debut memoir recounts freelance-writer Tucker’s journey from New York to Africa and back to the United States.
After ending her almost 18-year marriage, the author joined Patrick, her French husband-to-be, in Arusha, Tanzania. She envisioned “a place ... where life could be different, slower, more measured.” Patrick accepted a new job on a trial basis as a national park director in Togo, but, until she could join him, Tucker remained in Arusha to care for her stepson, Thomas, and to deal with the house girl, the guard and the gardener. In Togo, Patrick ends up managing not only the park, but the hotel in which the family has a free suite. Despite the boredom of life in Togo, the three plan to settle there after a brief return to Arusha so they can pack and sell their belongings. In Arusha, though, they learn that the job in Togo will only be part-time, and that in their absence their house has been burglarized and the watchman injured. The couple decides to live in America; they move first to an affluent New Jersey suburb and then to Tucker’s hometown in Vermont. Throughout the book, the contradictions of life in Africa are evident: There are mud huts and whizzing traffic, petty dishonesty and kindness. A retired police officer refuses payment for his help after the burglary, saying, “When somebody has misfortune, it is good to help.” Tucker is a polished writer who neatly folds background information into the narrative. Commenting on the geography of Togo, for example, she says, “His excellency ... looked awfully thin for a high-level bureaucrat, but then, Togo itself was awfully thin.” There are four chapters devoted to Patrick’s African adventures before the couple met, some of which are intriguing; animal lovers will appreciate his experience nurturing a leopard cub. An unexpected conclusion offers a surprising coda to Tucker’s account.
A well-written story set against colorful backgrounds.