Author: T.M. Clark
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
Child of Africa is another compelling read from Zimbabwean born T.M. Clark. It is a twisted tale of traditions and the sad state some species of animal find themselves in.
Clark writes beautiful characters, be they human or animal, and I love getting to know the animals in her stories.
Child of Africa is a story of national parks, animal conservation, tribal chieftanship and the corruption rife in the country.
Joss Brennan grew up in Zimbabwe but knew from an early age he wanted to be a British Marine, to head out and save the world far from home. He left behind a young elephant that he saved as a 10yr old boy, his best friend and her older sister, the local tribe and his parents. Years later he returns from Afghanistan a double amputee, too late to say goodbye to his parents or his best friend Courtney.
He is strong, he is determined and he isn’t quite sure what’s next. Joss is aiming to compete in a triathlon once he gets his fitness back and there are many improvements he wants to make to the lodge and surrounding villages, if the locals will learn to accept him.
Peta de Longe is a big game vet and the older sister of Courtney, she hasn’t forgiven Joss for not making it back to spend time with Courtney before she lost her battle with cancer but she doesn’t know the challenges he has faced; and either did Courtney. She lives a couple of hours away in a national park and spends her life trying to save the wildlife.
Bongani is a native man of many hats. He is the lodge manager, the chief’s heir and he is helping to nurse him in his final months. He has known the Brennan’s since Joss was a boy and is the last link Joss has to his parents. Bongani has a lot on his plate with running the lodge and looking after his father but he also has to look forward to the day that he takes over the chieftanship… and face his corrupt half-brother with an eye on the top job.
Clark has imbued her characters with a deep love of their homeland that stretches to the people and the animals. Her story depicts the plight of some majestic animals that are dying out at the hands of poachers who are doing a lot more damage than they need to.
Child of Africa is told on a dual timeline past and present with flashbacks scattered throughout the story. The flashbacks set the scene and let us get to know all of the characters and how they found themselves in their current situations.
All of the characters are colourful and all have their burdens to bear, they are well developed and well drawn. I grew to love the good guys and despise the bad guys. The baddest of the bad was a character that I wanted to see redeeming feautres, I wanted to see what made him the way he was but the more we learned the more it seemed that sometimes the bad is bone deep and he was actually just born that way.
My favourite character was Ndhlovy, the elephant Joss took in as a child. The elephant he was told it would be kinder to shoot and put out of her misery. Joss wouldn’t have a bar of it and took her home where they formed a bond that lasted a lifetime. I loved watching the interactions between the elephants and the humans. The insight we were given to the herd mind of the elephants and the intelligence in their majesty.
Once again Clark has painted a stark and vivid picture with her words of the people of Africa, and the plight of her animals. The corruption, the poaching and the old world magic still believed in tribal lands.
Child of Africa has two companion stories that I am seriously considering chasing up, if I ever find the time, in the picture book Slowly! Slowly! and the novella The Avoidable Orphan.
This is a story that is going to appeal to a wide audience, the setting and the characters are first rate but it is the suspense and the subtle slow burn romance that really make this a stand out for me. The always wondering what’s coming and what nefarious plots are being hatched.
Child of Africa is book #52 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017.