Lara Santoro, Author . Other Press $23.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-59051-271-5

A nna, the Italian-born, Nairobi-based war correspondent and narrator of veteran journalist Santoro's affecting debut novel, is fast succumbing to “the pain and riot” of “burned, bloodied Africa.” Excessively drinking, keeping two lovers—one, a fellow journalist; the other, the owner of a coffee plantation—and delaying assignments while pleading with her editor for a bureau transfer, she seems hell-bent on self-annihilation when Mercy, a local “giantess miraculously squeezed into a pink halter-top and fake patent-leather pants,” persuades Anna to give her a job as house girl. Mercy becomes indispensable to Anna, pushing her to give up alcohol and meet her deadlines and introducing Anna to Father Anselmo, an Italian priest who lives in and administers to the AIDS-wracked slum of Korogocho. But it is only after Anna learns that Mercy has AIDS that the full measure of the women's connection to and effect upon each other comes full circle. Santoro, who has covered the African AIDS epidemic, evokes the continent's everyday horrors and uncommon moments of grace in decidedly unsentimental prose, and her depiction of international journalists' lifestyles is similarly powerful. Though the subtleties that make the first half of the book sublime become heavy-handed later on, the characters and their complicated relationships remain stirring until the end. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 05/14/2007
Release date: 09/01/2007
Paperback - 279 pages - 978-1-84627-107-6
Paperback - 279 pages - 978-1-84627-106-9
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