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Children are Diamonds

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This is not the Africa of Isak Dinesen, nor the Africa of Joy Adamson. This is the Africa of civil wars and tribal massacres, where the Lord’s Resistance Army recruits child-soldiers after forcing them to kill their parents and eat their hearts. The aid workers who voluntarily subject themselves to life here are a breed of their own. Meet Hickey, an American school teacher This is not the Africa of Isak Dinesen, nor the Africa of Joy Adamson. This is the Africa of civil wars and tribal massacres, where the Lord’s Resistance Army recruits child-soldiers after forcing them to kill their parents and eat their hearts. The aid workers who voluntarily subject themselves to life here are a breed of their own. Meet Hickey, an American school teacher in his late thirties, an American school teacher who burns his bridges with the school board and goes to Africa as an aid worker. Working for an agency in Nairobi, one of his jobs is to drive food and medical supplies to Southern Sudan to an aid station run by Ruth, a middle-aged woman, who acts as nurse, doctor, hospice worker, feeder of starving children, and witness. Ruth is gruff but efficient, and Hickey, who is usually drawn to youth and beauty, is struck by her devotion. Returning to Nairobi, he can’t forget what he has seen. When the violence and chaos in the region increase to a fever pitch and aid workers are being slaughtered or evacuated, Hickey is asked to save Ruth overland by Jeep. What happens to them and the children that have joined their journey is the searing climax of this novel. Hoagland paints an unflinching portrait of a living hell at its worst, and yet amid that suffering there is hope in the form of humility, sacrifice, and life-affirming friendship.


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This is not the Africa of Isak Dinesen, nor the Africa of Joy Adamson. This is the Africa of civil wars and tribal massacres, where the Lord’s Resistance Army recruits child-soldiers after forcing them to kill their parents and eat their hearts. The aid workers who voluntarily subject themselves to life here are a breed of their own. Meet Hickey, an American school teacher This is not the Africa of Isak Dinesen, nor the Africa of Joy Adamson. This is the Africa of civil wars and tribal massacres, where the Lord’s Resistance Army recruits child-soldiers after forcing them to kill their parents and eat their hearts. The aid workers who voluntarily subject themselves to life here are a breed of their own. Meet Hickey, an American school teacher in his late thirties, an American school teacher who burns his bridges with the school board and goes to Africa as an aid worker. Working for an agency in Nairobi, one of his jobs is to drive food and medical supplies to Southern Sudan to an aid station run by Ruth, a middle-aged woman, who acts as nurse, doctor, hospice worker, feeder of starving children, and witness. Ruth is gruff but efficient, and Hickey, who is usually drawn to youth and beauty, is struck by her devotion. Returning to Nairobi, he can’t forget what he has seen. When the violence and chaos in the region increase to a fever pitch and aid workers are being slaughtered or evacuated, Hickey is asked to save Ruth overland by Jeep. What happens to them and the children that have joined their journey is the searing climax of this novel. Hoagland paints an unflinching portrait of a living hell at its worst, and yet amid that suffering there is hope in the form of humility, sacrifice, and life-affirming friendship.

30 review for Children are Diamonds

  1. 5 out of 5

    DROPPING OUT

    Hoagland is better known for his many books of essays and "nature writing" than his novels, but Children are Diamonds demonstrates that this eighty year old gentleman has what it takes. From the first sentence on the first page one is sucked into that maelstrom of war and senseless violence in east-central Africa: South Sudan, Congo, Uganda. It grabs one by the throat and does not let go. Some have found the pace slow - Yes, it is. But in the heat in that part of the world nothing moves quickly, e Hoagland is better known for his many books of essays and "nature writing" than his novels, but Children are Diamonds demonstrates that this eighty year old gentleman has what it takes. From the first sentence on the first page one is sucked into that maelstrom of war and senseless violence in east-central Africa: South Sudan, Congo, Uganda. It grabs one by the throat and does not let go. Some have found the pace slow - Yes, it is. But in the heat in that part of the world nothing moves quickly, except the aggressor and death. And Hoagland describes the geographical surroundings in such detail, demonstrating his familiarity with the terrain he has visited many times and for which he still has great affection. The all-too-common violence is not especially graphic (except for the denouement), so one cannot or might not become inured to it. The first-person narrative is so gripping, I often forgot I was reading a work of fiction. And there was hardly a page where I had to take a break, lest I burst into tears. I dare say there will be those who will not like the book because they do not like the subject matter. But read Hoagland for his style, for it is incomparable.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    The subject matter is very important and relevant, however, I thought the writing style was terrible and difficult to read, long run on sentences, that made it hard to decipher what he was trying to say. I make it a rule to always finish a book I have started, but this is a first in a long time that I debated quitting several times.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Hoagland weaves a realistic if dismal and disheartening portrayal of Africa and its Aid agencies while maintaining a tiny spark of hope in that there are (and perhaps always will be) those willing to help, even if for "bad" reasons. Ruth, a Christian Aid Doctor, and Hickey, the narrator, a wanderer, teacher and occasionally exploitative man, are our main characters. Hickey and Ruth face unimaginable and yet mundane for Africa problems as they respond to a new threat. What makes the story compell Hoagland weaves a realistic if dismal and disheartening portrayal of Africa and its Aid agencies while maintaining a tiny spark of hope in that there are (and perhaps always will be) those willing to help, even if for "bad" reasons. Ruth, a Christian Aid Doctor, and Hickey, the narrator, a wanderer, teacher and occasionally exploitative man, are our main characters. Hickey and Ruth face unimaginable and yet mundane for Africa problems as they respond to a new threat. What makes the story compelling is the complexity of the characters who are neither caricatures of AID workers nor do-gooders but simply human beings being human.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Remarkable novel about the 1990's war in southern Sudan, reading more like a personal account than like fiction. Hoagland evokes the time and place with haunting imagery of the primeval beauty of the land juxtaposed with scenes of the people's deep suffering. He also paints an indelible portrait of the lives of Western do-gooders and the opportunists lured by the adrenaline rush of a war zone. Remarkable novel about the 1990's war in southern Sudan, reading more like a personal account than like fiction. Hoagland evokes the time and place with haunting imagery of the primeval beauty of the land juxtaposed with scenes of the people's deep suffering. He also paints an indelible portrait of the lives of Western do-gooders and the opportunists lured by the adrenaline rush of a war zone.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sophie

    DNF. Actually I didn’t get far into this book at all. The sentences were excruciating long, making it a chore to read. Although I was interested in the topic, I will have to find another book that covers it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    lawyerbookworm

    How can a novel set during the war in Southern Sudan be anything but fascinating? Answer: it can. The whole book was a huge slog. Only 230 pages, but it took me nearly two months to get through. The writing style was just awful. Long run-on sentences that made me daydream and by the time I got to the end of the sentence, I had forgotten what happened at the beginning. While I did appreciate the author’s own experience with Africa, the way he described the different places was next to impossible How can a novel set during the war in Southern Sudan be anything but fascinating? Answer: it can. The whole book was a huge slog. Only 230 pages, but it took me nearly two months to get through. The writing style was just awful. Long run-on sentences that made me daydream and by the time I got to the end of the sentence, I had forgotten what happened at the beginning. While I did appreciate the author’s own experience with Africa, the way he described the different places was next to impossible to follow unless you have been to Africa a lot, or simply have a lot of time on your hands to research. I fell into neither category. There were a few times where I realized the main characters were in danger due to being in a war-torn part of Africa, but the tone of the writing failed to make even those suspenseful events interesting. In addition to the difficult writing style, the main protagonist was just not like-able at all. I did not care what happened to him in the slightest. Supposedly a humanitarian worker, but a lot of the things he did were more so he would feel like a better person, not to help the greater good. Maybe someone else can tell me what ended up happening in the end because for now, I am putting this colossal waste of time on my shelf where it belongs.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Fred Rose

    Couldn't finish it. Horribly cliched. Couldn't finish it. Horribly cliched.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mary Overton

    The 1995 humanitarian crisis in Sudan, told from the 1st person POV of an itinerant, American NGO worker who is a decent man but far from saintly. A painful, complicated, difficult story that I couldn't stop reading. "You don't have to be a doctor to help people who have no aspirin or disinfectant or malaria, tuberculosis, dysentery, or epilepsy pills, no splints or bandaging, and no other near facility to walk to in the brush.... "What I'm explaining is that, even if I'm not of their exact denomi The 1995 humanitarian crisis in Sudan, told from the 1st person POV of an itinerant, American NGO worker who is a decent man but far from saintly. A painful, complicated, difficult story that I couldn't stop reading. "You don't have to be a doctor to help people who have no aspirin or disinfectant or malaria, tuberculosis, dysentery, or epilepsy pills, no splints or bandaging, and no other near facility to walk to in the brush.... "What I'm explaining is that, even if I'm not of their exact denomination, directors of small missionary programs in a pinch for personnel may see fit to hire me for jack-of-all-trades assignments. I can do the basic mechanics if we break down on the road, and I know when to speed up or - equally important - slow down when figures with guns appear to block our passage.... The big groups, such as Doctors Without Borders, CARE, Oxfam, and Save the Children, have salaried international staff they can fly in from Honduras, Bangkok, or New Delhi to plug a momentary defection or a flip-out - dedicated career people, like the U.N.'s ladies and gentlemen, with New York, Geneva, London, Paris, Rome behind them, who've been vetted: not much fooling around. But there are various smaller outfits, whose flyers you don't receive in the mail back home, that will hire 'the spiritual drifter,' as Al [the narrator's boss] put it to me, to haul pallets of plywood, bags of cement, first-aid kits in bulk, and sacks of potatoes or bayou rice, cases of your basic tins, like corned beef, tuna fish, salmon, peas, what-have-you, and trunks of medicine to provision the solo picayune apostle out doing Christ's appalling work in the hinterlands." Kindle location 272-288 The narrator is between jobs when "... as if by telepathy, the phone at the Arab's [hotel] soon rang and it was Al, sounding me out about another trip to Ruthie's [clinic in a remote area of Sudan] to resupply her with medical kits, toddler formula, cornsoya blend (CSB), her Christmas mail, and spare treats like chocolates and canned crabmeat. The bad news was that a World Food Program delivery of bulk grains was going to be late, and she might like to think about either leaving temporarily or else keeping me for protection and company till it came. "'Put your money where your mouth is,' Al joked when I hesitated, being, like me, a sort of knockabout.... "'They have gold there in the Kit River, near Opari, you know,' he added, as if that should be an incentive to me. I was startled - glad we were on the phone so he couldn't see my face. Had one of the drivers told him I was smuggling a few diamonds when I had the chance? "When I went to visit him the next day, we struck a deal about direct deposits to my bank account if I stayed awhile (I tried to wangle some term life insurance as well)... "Al is a sandy-haired Scotch-Irish Bible believer, but funny (he'd now begun calling me 'a diamond in the rough'), who said that children are diamonds, too, and knew so from the front lines, having witnessed the successive Ethiopian and Somali famines and the Sahel droughts of the Kababish country in northern Sudan; he knew that you can be nearer my God to Thee without sectarianism. One Christ, many proxies." location 555-573 If you can bear that much suffering, a companion book is Dave Eggers' What is the What, a fictionalized account of the actual story of a surviving refugee. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    What is on-the-face fiction reads so much like a memoir that I couldn't stop myself from checking: This is a novel, right? The first-person narrative is so visceral, so descriptive of what I've imagined the reality of war-torn central Africa to be like, that I feel I've just ridden through the African bush and taken a class in geopolitical history, not read a compelling tale from someone's imagination. Hoagland imbeds you in the life of Hickey, his narrator, carrying you along on his aid runs into What is on-the-face fiction reads so much like a memoir that I couldn't stop myself from checking: This is a novel, right? The first-person narrative is so visceral, so descriptive of what I've imagined the reality of war-torn central Africa to be like, that I feel I've just ridden through the African bush and taken a class in geopolitical history, not read a compelling tale from someone's imagination. Hoagland imbeds you in the life of Hickey, his narrator, carrying you along on his aid runs into South Sudan during its civil war. But before you finish with page 230 and the story's end you'll feel you're being carted along in his jeep, feeling every rut in the road, watching out the window as you pass emaciated refugees fleeing the fighting, urging him to take aboard one more sickly child, hurting for those who have fallen by the wayside and will never get up. Hoagland makes heroes and heroines of the aid workers, the missionary priests and nuns, the volunteer health care professionals in Africa, the bush pilots who fly for the nongovernmental organizations. Why they are there is as much the story as what they are doing and what will happen to them. One answer to the why question lies in the title — the NGO workers and the missioners see hope and value in Africa's children. And, as characters in the story express viewpoints from the perspective of those who are not American, readers will be challenged to give a second thought to U.S. foreign policy that — from those other perspectives — hasn't found those diamonds worth saving. The only negative, and the reason for four stars instead of five, is the gratuitous sexual encounters that the author goes into in far too much detail. Just weren't needed, and certainly not so graphic.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    It's the 1990s and we follow Hickey, an American school teacher turned African guy about town in Nairobi. He does a little of this, he does a little of that, he's an opportunist but not a sinister one. He's observant of the ways of everybody, learning how to get by in a very difficult environment that is constantly changing. He hooks up to deliver medical supplies/food for Protestants Against Famine, to a relief station in southern Sudan. There he meets Ruth, who understandably is a piece of wor It's the 1990s and we follow Hickey, an American school teacher turned African guy about town in Nairobi. He does a little of this, he does a little of that, he's an opportunist but not a sinister one. He's observant of the ways of everybody, learning how to get by in a very difficult environment that is constantly changing. He hooks up to deliver medical supplies/food for Protestants Against Famine, to a relief station in southern Sudan. There he meets Ruth, who understandably is a piece of work (good work). She was kidnapped and possibly raped by a breakaway gang of rebels, then made to walk 20 miles back to her clinic, naked. Amazing feats of strength like this is Africa. They work together to save themselves and others and the story is following that journey. Things are tough here. The children are soldiers, prostitutes and rarely are they just kids. No one has food, AIDS is rampant and the violence just keeps getting worse and worse. There's a lot of suffering to be had and not a lot happening to effectively end it. The best aspect of the book is the history lessons you might learn if you are like me and not as informed about many of the countries and their distinct civil war history. What I had issues with is that as I made my way through the book the characters started to be the same story but with a different face attached to it. It was all suffering, blending together. It was the do-gooder doctor here, the child soldier there, the hungry, the sick the deformed. Though the book carries a great deal of detail I found myself slowed towards the end and not racing to finish it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stefani

    I've read enough NGO-style books on Africa to be familiar with the atrocities that various wars throughout the continent have perpetuated upon the most vulnerable members of society: rape, ritualistic killing, destruction and looting. In this book, the main character, a freelance aid worker for NGOs working in conflict zones, distributes food and medicine to a perpetually long line of downtrodden people fleeing war. Mother Theresa he's not: But of course the man with the grotesque goiter could h I've read enough NGO-style books on Africa to be familiar with the atrocities that various wars throughout the continent have perpetuated upon the most vulnerable members of society: rape, ritualistic killing, destruction and looting. In this book, the main character, a freelance aid worker for NGOs working in conflict zones, distributes food and medicine to a perpetually long line of downtrodden people fleeing war. Mother Theresa he's not: But of course the man with the grotesque goiter could have passed through any roadblock in an NGO vehicle, if you just mutter the world "hospital." No one would want to unload him. He didn't know enough to ask me for transportation, however, and I didn't want him sitting beside me, smelling of death for hours and hours. There's a lot of gory details of civil war peppered throughout the story: LRA children wearing the intestines of the people they just killed, the consumption of rats and bugs for lack of food, etc...These details do nothing to tie the loose ends of the story together, rather, the book reads like an anthropological study of war-torn Africa. Lots of references to specific tribes and towns in Sudan but, unless you had traveled there, would be completely obscure to the average reader. As another reviewer noted, the writer is somewhat long-winded and I often had to read the same sentence two or three times to know what the hell he meant by something. I think this would be an interesting read for someone interested in learning more Sudan and Uganda and the role that conflict has played in their history.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    I discovered Children are Diamonds after reading a review of the book; I bought the book expecting another stereotyped softened version of Africa. Much to my shock, the book proved to be something much deeper, and for that reason, much more effective than anything I expected. I won't rehash the plot except to say that it is a first person narrative done by an occasional aide worker (and otherwise ne'er do well, to quote our narrator) who, over the course of the book, undertakes three trips to sou I discovered Children are Diamonds after reading a review of the book; I bought the book expecting another stereotyped softened version of Africa. Much to my shock, the book proved to be something much deeper, and for that reason, much more effective than anything I expected. I won't rehash the plot except to say that it is a first person narrative done by an occasional aide worker (and otherwise ne'er do well, to quote our narrator) who, over the course of the book, undertakes three trips to southern Sudan (now South Sudan) for a second tier relief agency. The events of the book take place in 1995 and are largely accurate. Our protagonist starts his narrative seemingly numb, but by the end of the book his heart is partially broken, and so are the readers'. This isn't a book for the squeamish,especially the last chapter: the images are harsh, and so are the decisions that Hoagland's characters face. A few last comments: I found Hoagland's writing style difficult at first. He prefers both long, run-on sentences and even longer paragraphs. He also has a depth of knowledge about Africa and the Sudan that requires the reader to know a significant amount of historical background info to fully enjoy the nuances of the book. Nevertheless, this is a book that rewards the dedicated reader. I hope the book gains a wider audience.

  13. 4 out of 5

    April

    I hesitate to say I "liked" this book....its subtitle is "An African Apocalypse"...but it was a very, very good, if exhausting, read. It is fiction, but reads like nonfiction. Hickey, the main character, is a free-floater who subsides off of various small amounts of NGO money and smuggling diamonds from villagers who pick them up, not from the evil diamond mines. He's not a bad guy, but very much a rolling stone. Somehow, he falls into the orbit of Ruth, a middle-aged woman who is the sole repre I hesitate to say I "liked" this book....its subtitle is "An African Apocalypse"...but it was a very, very good, if exhausting, read. It is fiction, but reads like nonfiction. Hickey, the main character, is a free-floater who subsides off of various small amounts of NGO money and smuggling diamonds from villagers who pick them up, not from the evil diamond mines. He's not a bad guy, but very much a rolling stone. Somehow, he falls into the orbit of Ruth, a middle-aged woman who is the sole representative of a religious charity in the Southern Sudan and who acts as the only medical person for many many miles around, subsisting on precarious, shipments of drugs and medicine that always, always fall short. Although Hickey eventually leaves for the relative safety (for white men) of Nairobi, he ends up going back to try to get her and her African children and loyal natives out of the incredibly violent civil war that is brewing. What happens to them sounds like a horror novel, except that it rings all too true. Adjectives like "searing," "horrific," and "brilliant" are not overstatements for this painful but important book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Karen Ashmore

    If you have ever worked for a small international non-profit/NGO, been kidnapped/in the midst of a coup, traveled to Kenya, Uganda or Sudan,then you will relate to this book. I have experienced all except for travel to Sudan and I was captivated by the details and events in the book Children are Diamonds. He gets the geography right, nails the differences between small grassroots groups and BINGOs (Big International NGOs)and describes tribal differences well. I laughed at "the Dinkas had finally If you have ever worked for a small international non-profit/NGO, been kidnapped/in the midst of a coup, traveled to Kenya, Uganda or Sudan,then you will relate to this book. I have experienced all except for travel to Sudan and I was captivated by the details and events in the book Children are Diamonds. He gets the geography right, nails the differences between small grassroots groups and BINGOs (Big International NGOs)and describes tribal differences well. I laughed at "the Dinkas had finally learned that whites are tribal,too. If you killed them, the others got mad." If you did not experience one of the events I listed, you may not relate as much to the protagonist but you may enjoy, or sometimes cringe, at the story and become enraged at the Lord's Resistance Army and its horrific methods to indoctrinate child soldiers. Ended with a huge climax, where you are left traumatized by man's inhumanity to man with indignities, horror and violence. Nothing he says is false but I find there is a lot more hopefulness and caring in the world. Or maybe I am just an optimist.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    Heartbreaking odyssey of a teacher travelling from Nairobi through Sudan. Intense detail of people, place, political reality. Not for the sleepy/time to go to sleep reader. Be awake when you pick this book up(or Kindle or Nook it), the rich and dense texture demands nothing less. Hero is Ruth, teacher Hickey is a more self-centered fellow who is trying to stay that way. But Ruth's idealism and self-sacrifice, her compassion and her sense of humor, pushes him beyond his limits. The medical conditio Heartbreaking odyssey of a teacher travelling from Nairobi through Sudan. Intense detail of people, place, political reality. Not for the sleepy/time to go to sleep reader. Be awake when you pick this book up(or Kindle or Nook it), the rich and dense texture demands nothing less. Hero is Ruth, teacher Hickey is a more self-centered fellow who is trying to stay that way. But Ruth's idealism and self-sacrifice, her compassion and her sense of humor, pushes him beyond his limits. The medical conditions of children and adults that cannot be tended, conditions that could easily be treated in any developed nation, conditions that destroy lives at all ages unnecessarily: these constantly frustrate the author. See page 90 for the beauty of this author's work: it should be his ticket to Heaven, no matter what else he may or may not have done. This is a superior novel, written by the best living essayist of our era. I highly recommend it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Leight

    I found Hoagland's narrative to be compelling and felt he captured well the quirks, flaws and virtues of Westerners who are drawn to sub-Saharan Africa by a complex mix of motives - seeking adventure, seeking a place that they feel they're not bound by the rules, seeking an opportunity to help the desperate. It's true that he relied on an incredibly detailed knowledge of the region. I've traveled there and worked in Kenya to a limited extent, but knew very little about Sudan. I didn't find this I found Hoagland's narrative to be compelling and felt he captured well the quirks, flaws and virtues of Westerners who are drawn to sub-Saharan Africa by a complex mix of motives - seeking adventure, seeking a place that they feel they're not bound by the rules, seeking an opportunity to help the desperate. It's true that he relied on an incredibly detailed knowledge of the region. I've traveled there and worked in Kenya to a limited extent, but knew very little about Sudan. I didn't find this to be an impediment, however. Some sections, particularly at the conclusion of the book, were perhaps over the top: heaping on suffering, cruelty and violence. Whether that served a worthwhile narrative end is hard to evaluate, but it certainly increased the power of the story.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I’m glad I read it - but it was not an easy read. While it was good writing - it was different than his non-fiction. I found it difficult sometime to keep up with the shifting story lines. The main character and the others were all portrayed vividly. The scenes and situations difficult. War time...famine - all of the most terrible plagues of our world were present in this book. It was painful and it was interesting. It is a picture of an Africa - not the whole of Africa. Interesting and I’m glad I’m glad I read it - but it was not an easy read. While it was good writing - it was different than his non-fiction. I found it difficult sometime to keep up with the shifting story lines. The main character and the others were all portrayed vividly. The scenes and situations difficult. War time...famine - all of the most terrible plagues of our world were present in this book. It was painful and it was interesting. It is a picture of an Africa - not the whole of Africa. Interesting and I’m glad I read it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    It's a story of a flawed person with a cynical, but good heart. The first part of the story meanders through various episodes and encounters in the main character's (Hickey's) past. This sort of style made it a little difficult to embrace. However, that style perfectly defines Hickey's life thus far and because of that, I have a growing retrospective appreciation for Hoagland's style. As rambling as the first part could get, the last 50 pages were as good as anything I've ever read. The descript It's a story of a flawed person with a cynical, but good heart. The first part of the story meanders through various episodes and encounters in the main character's (Hickey's) past. This sort of style made it a little difficult to embrace. However, that style perfectly defines Hickey's life thus far and because of that, I have a growing retrospective appreciation for Hoagland's style. As rambling as the first part could get, the last 50 pages were as good as anything I've ever read. The description of a refugee evacuation was poignant and gripping and alone is worth the read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mahinui Gail

    Here is how I would rate this book if there were multiple dimensions: writing 5 stars story 3 stars choice of what to express 2 stars managing to write a book where the story seems so real you can't decide whether it would be better to drink poison or visit Africa 5 stars I would have stopped reading many times but I felt like I owed it to the author to read on. I know I refer to the story. The story is not a story that resolves, at least, for me. It might for some. That there was something even more Here is how I would rate this book if there were multiple dimensions: writing 5 stars story 3 stars choice of what to express 2 stars managing to write a book where the story seems so real you can't decide whether it would be better to drink poison or visit Africa 5 stars I would have stopped reading many times but I felt like I owed it to the author to read on. I know I refer to the story. The story is not a story that resolves, at least, for me. It might for some. That there was something even more dreadful than five minutes before happening all the time was dreadful.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    This book was a difficult read for me. The story tended to ramble a bit making it hard to keep up with. It is an intense story and heartbreaking. As always it pains me to see the hardships facing so many children in our world. This book also caused me to rethink about the actual motives of some of those trying to improve conditions in other countries. I would recommend this book even if it was a tough one for me.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    Wow. This book made me feel very present with the characters. I read the last chapter when I couldn't sleep at 4 one morning. It reminding of the last part of "The Killing Fields," when you think you can't handle more bad things, and yet you know more terrible, unbearable things are going to happen. Wow. This book made me feel very present with the characters. I read the last chapter when I couldn't sleep at 4 one morning. It reminding of the last part of "The Killing Fields," when you think you can't handle more bad things, and yet you know more terrible, unbearable things are going to happen.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jason Burkhardt

    Story is an enthralling one - not-so-good guy runs errands for charities in Africa. Plenty of action, a fair bit to learn about the interplay between Kenya/Sudan/Uganda but the prose is just not worth it. Strikes me as someone who reads and enjoys modern literature and tries to adopt the style - without the talent.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Well worth reading account of aid workers in South Sudan, people who for varying reasons have dedicated their lives to helping people in desperate circumstances. The situation is sad, often terrifying - the reality of people's lives in a war-zone is aptly described. But so is the humanity of people - both the helpers and the helped. Well worth reading account of aid workers in South Sudan, people who for varying reasons have dedicated their lives to helping people in desperate circumstances. The situation is sad, often terrifying - the reality of people's lives in a war-zone is aptly described. But so is the humanity of people - both the helpers and the helped.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    The last 30 pages or so of this powerful novel are as gripping, horrifying, and astonishing a finale as any I can recall. (Disclaimer: the author was one of my beloved professors and one of my favorite people on the planet)

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    Not again will I blindly trust Garrison Keillor's review. Hoagland's story is important and there are moments of literary skill, but it does not carry the reader as I had expected. I forced myself to finish, skimming, and sometimes skipping entire pages. Not again will I blindly trust Garrison Keillor's review. Hoagland's story is important and there are moments of literary skill, but it does not carry the reader as I had expected. I forced myself to finish, skimming, and sometimes skipping entire pages.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Philip Monroe

    a dystopian view of much NGO work and the mixed motives of humanitarians and results. Yet more true than false. Dragged in a couple spots but felt true, truer than I want to admit. The traumatic events and helplessness was very realistic.

  27. 5 out of 5

    aannddee

    I could not get into this book. I don't think it's a bad book but rather one I just can't read at this time. Perhaps I'll give it another try in the future and be able to change the star rating to something more positive. I could not get into this book. I don't think it's a bad book but rather one I just can't read at this time. Perhaps I'll give it another try in the future and be able to change the star rating to something more positive.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    It was very slow reading..

  29. 4 out of 5

    Allison6876

    Not what I was expecting from the jacket summary. Didn't really live up to it's potential. It was ok. Not what I was expecting from the jacket summary. Didn't really live up to it's potential. It was ok.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Noble

    want to sink your teeth into the craziness of Africa in the Sudan and surrounding countries this book will raise your eyebrows right up to your scalp.

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