Synopses & Reviews
A portrait of a resilient African village, ruled until recently by magic and tradition, now facing modern problems and responding, often triumphantly, to change.
When Sarah Erdman, a Peace Corps volunteer, arrived in Nambonkaha, she became the first Caucasian to venture there since the French colonialists. But even though she was thousands of miles away from the United States, completely on her own in this tiny village in the West African nation of Cote d'Ivoire, she did not feel a stranger for long.
As her vivid narrative unfolds, Erdman draws us into the changing world of the village that became her home. Here is a place where electricity is expected but never arrives, where sorcerers still conjure magic, where the tok-tok sound of women grinding corn with pestles rings out in the mornings like church bells. Rare rains provoke bathing in the streets and the most coveted fashion trend is fabric with illustrations of Western cell phones.
Yet Nambonkaha is also a place where AIDS threatens and poverty is constant, where women suffer the indignities of patriarchal customs, where children work like adults while still managing to dream. Lyrical and topical, Erdman's beautiful debut captures the astonishing spirit of an unforgettable community.
"Sarah Erdman's voice rings with a distinct and refreshing intimacy....This book is simply about people and their stories. In the joys and failures of daily routines in a small African village, she finds life itself."--Peter Hessler, author of Rivertown
"Exemplary...The writing has the narrative pulse of good fiction, and is as absorbing."--Norman Rush, author of Mortals
"Sarah Erdman has been blessed with these gifts: a fervent curiosity, a generous heart, a lightly self-mocking manner, and a fluent and poetic language...A vivid, at turns hilarious, at turns terrifying, important, and beautiful book."--Melissa Fay Greene, author of Praying for Sheetrock
"It is rare to be so completely transported to another land....[Erdmans] powers of observation, her prose, and her daring are truly Orwellian."--Abraham Verghese, author of My Own Country
"This is an engrossing, well-told tale certain to appeal to armchair travelers and to anyone especially women considering international volunteer work." Publishers Weekly
"With graceful, thoughtful prose, Erdman ponders the problems the village faces and describes in vivid detail the many people she met there." Booklist
"A thoughtful memoir of Peace Corps service in West Africa, with all the hallmarks of the subgenre....Sometimes treacly, but mostly charming. A worthy debut." Kirkus Reviews
"The author's sensitivity to the traditions of the villagers, the unique ways she found to overcome and incorporate those traditions in her work, and the despair she sometimes felt over the intrusion of the modern world make this a complicated but also contemplative book." Library Journal
The village of Nambonkaha in the Ivory Coast is a place where electricity hasnt yet arrived, where sorcerers still conjure magic, where the tok-tok sound of women pounding corn fills the morning air like a drumbeat. As Sarah Erdman enters the social fold of the village as a Peace Corps volunteer, she finds that Nambonkaha is also a place where AIDS threatens and poverty is constant, where women suffer the indignities of patriarchal customs, and where children work like adults while still managing to dream. Lyrical and topical, Erdmans beautiful debut captures the astonishing spirit of an unforgettable community.
About the Author
A graduate of Middlebury College, Sarah Erdman
still works for the Peace Corps and lives in Washington, D.C. The child of parents who spent their entire careers in the Foreign Service, she lived in eight countries while growing up.