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Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness Hardcover – August 23, 2011
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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African; Biography & Autobiogaphy; Childhood and youth; Fuller, Alexandra; Non-Fiction; Personal Memoirs; Southern Africa; Zimbabwe
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* It contains lyrical and vivid writing that pulls the reader into the sights, sounds, smells, and emotions of the narrative's places, especially Africa.
* It offers an introduction to a world and culture and place that is so utterly foreign to me, I felt as though I had gone on a grand safari myself.
* Its character development was both harsh and compassioniate, especially the rendering of the author's mother "Nicola Fuller of Central Africa."
* The story provides keen insight into the often unmentioned civilian victims of war.
* The narrative explores life's emotional complexities of, and brutalities against, the human heart, yet it moves quickly enough not to become maudlin or mired dark places.
* It inspired me to think about how I would react in some of the unspeakably awful circumstances that Nicola Fuller, the author (Nicola's daughter), and others in the family had to face. We judge others at our own peril.
* The author's ability to step back far enough to see her family with the eye of an artist and the heart of a loved one impressed me.
* The book succeeds, I believe, in conveying why anyone might be willing, against incredible odds, to keep coming back to what must be a very seductive part of the world.
Here are some quotes I noted:
Speaking of her mother's childhood in Kenya: "It was, in many ways, a charmed and feral childhood."
Describing the brutal landscape: "It was toward the end of the long dry season; the wind had been red all day with dust blown in from Uganda and settling on everything like powdered blood, the sun blistered out of a high, clear sky."
...and her mother's garden: "an encouraged tangle of bougainvillea and passion fruit vines, beds of lilies and strelitzia, rows of lilac bushes and caladiums looming over borders of impatiens."
"War is Africa's perpetual ripe fruit. There is so much injustice to resolve, such desire for revenge in the blood of the people, such crippling corruption of power, such unseemly scramble for the natural resources. The wind of power shifts and there go the fruit again, tumbling toward the ground, each war more inventively terrible than the last."
As the author tells the story of her brother's illness and death: "My impuse is impossible: I want to reach back through the years and protect my young parents from what happens next."
"Surely until all of us own and honor one another's dead, until we have admitted to our murders and forgiven one another and ourselves for what we have done, there can be no truce, no dignity and no peace."
"People often ask why my parents haven't left Africa. Simply put, they have been possessed by this land."
Some of the descriptions of the surroundings and landscapes are so lovely - particularly as evening falls - that I felt as though I were sitting right there with Ms. Fuller and her mother as they reminisce together. Two minor negatives are 1) the book starts off a little jumbled and would have been better had it proceeded chronologically as it does as it gets going, and 2) more pictures and maps of the regions the Fullers lived and traveled in would have been helpful.