Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Book Review: Love in the Driest Season

TitleLove in the Driest Season: A Family Memoir
AuthorNeely Tucker
Tagsaids, africa, zimbabwe, adoption, race relations, non-fiction

Neely Tucker grew up in poverty in rural Mississippi, a white product of a deeply racist society. He turned to journalism as his escape from the poverty and the racism. As a journalist in Detroit, he spent a lot of time with his neighbor,, a black woman named Vita. After going to his first overseas assignment, he discovered that Vita was the love of his life, and they were married.

After time in Eastern Europe, he was sent to Zimbabwe. He and Vita had heard that AIDS was having a horrific impact there, but it took time to sink in.that a whole generation was dying and leaving orphans. Neely and Vita began working in orphanages, trying to provide a bit of help to a system with too few people to take care of the increasing number of orphans with totally inadequate funds and supplies.

When Neely and Vita see baby Chipo, they fall in love. Chipo had already come close to death on more than one occasion. When they take her home, they have to fight to keep her breathing as she suffered from pneumonia. More than once an hour she had to be fed and her breathing tubes cleared, and part of this time Neely was away reporting on the embassy bombing in Nairobi. The Tuckers want to adopt Chipo, and this is the story of how they overcame an impossible bureaucracy to make it happen.

Neely Tucker saw a lot of death as a reporter in areas of the world where conflict and disease were rampant. He tells enough of the story to make the reader feel some of the horrors he has seen. So the book is difficult to read. It is, however, a compelling story, and in the end, it shows that people can change for the better, as illustrated by Neely's parents, who for so long accepted the racism of their society, only to be won over by their son's black wife and daughter.

The lessons of the book, then, are that life is hard... unbearably so, in some parts of the world. Yet even among the worst, Neely Tucker finds heroes.

The book is written with clarity and honesty, sometimes brutally so. Read it and weep, but read it.
PublicationThree Rivers Press (2005), Paperback, 288 pages
Publication date2005
ISBN1400081602 / 9781400081608

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