A tale of wildly clashing cultures in the Belgian Congo.
American missionary Amanda Brown arrives in 1958, eager to save souls. Her plane crashes on arrival, but she survives and is rescued by a mysterious Nigerian. The small town of Belle Vue is the center of a diamond-mining region. Even the least significant Europeans live quite well, while the natives on the other side of the river struggle for existence. When the witch doctor, Their Death, finds his second wife’s youngest child sucking on an enormous uncut diamond, his efforts to turn the stone into a better life for his family unleash a chain of disasters. His first wife, the clever Cripple, replaces the stone with glass; the white man approached by Their Death for help becomes embroiled in endless plots with his male lover and the local head of the mining consortium. Amanda hires Cripple to work with her surly housekeeper and becomes fond of the witch doctor’s (first) wife, although neither fully understands the other’s very different lifestyle. Amanda, who has made no friends among the Europeans, defends Cripple when she falsely confesses to murdering a white man. The author’s personal experience as a child brought up by missionaries in the Congo lends authenticity to every word.
A radical but welcome departure for Myers (As the World Churns, 2008, etc.). Fans of Alexander McCall Smith may well find Cripple as delightful as Precious Ramotswe.