From Publishers Weekly
In 1987, Scott's parents ended a peripatetic decade through South Africa, England, and New Zealand, and returned to Botswana with seven-year-old Robyn and her younger siblings. Her mother is a dedicated homeschooler (Children learn best in unstructured situations, when they don't know they're learning); her father is a doctor, who often serves more than one hundred patients a day. Grandpa Ivor, a former ace bush pilot, whose later ventures include coffin making, and Grandpa Terry, the personnel manager of a mine, are both great storytellers. Taut and coherent vignettes breathe life into the characters, and Scott's own storytelling skill renders childhood ventures (breaking a horse, falling into a thornbush, distributing Christmas bags) with remarkable immediacy and liveliness. There are snakes, metaphorical and real, though the former rarely intrude upon the child's idyllic world. The real snakes provide moments where we never knew what we'd learn, only that it would be interesting. A venomous puff adder serves as anatomy lesson, and her mother turns the death of a juvenile brown house snake into an exhilarating philosophical lecture. Happy stories are hard to tell, but Scott succeeds in this engaging recreation of a child's Botswana, apolitical and Eden-like. She has no sordid revelations, no shocking surprises—just a raconteur's talent for making any story she tells interesting. (Apr.)
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For a white child in Botswana on the borders between South Africa and Zimbabwe in the 1980s and 1990s, home is an adventure in paradise, with horses, snakes, crocodiles, baobab trees, starry nights, and more. Growing up “on the fringe,” Robyn and her siblings are homeschooled by their independent mother, who argues all the time with her physician husband, who flies around to rural clinics and argues with his eccentric dad. Robyn’s dream is to go to school, but when she finally does in neighboring Bulawayo, it is not what she expected, including the raging racism. Immensely privileged as they are, her family is not prejudiced (Mum hates being called Madam), and they are aware of the power struggles and disasters, whether it is the diamond boom (for a very few) or the devastation of AIDS (for many). But nature is the story in this idyllic memoir, and not as background. Out of Africa fans will be enthralled. --Hazel Rochman
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