This is the title of the book I started yesterday. And finished yesterday. All 259 pages… which is a lot for me in one 24-hour period. I just couldn’t stop.
I was hurriedly browsing through the shelf of new biographies at the library yesterday morning, knowing I was on the verge of being late for work already. I added a book about three Iranian women to my already-grabbed Trollope novel, and then glanced at the brown cover of one subtitled, “A memoir of childhood, war, and an American Farm.” I stuck it in my pile and headed for the counter.
Later I pulled it out again and realized, there beside the little crouching cowgirl with hat, gun, and dog in hand, the subtitle didn’t read “…American Farm,” but “African”. Hmm. I opened it up and began to read.
Now, let me disclaim here. The preface is an account of the guerilla massacre of a Rhodesian family in the 1970’s. It is a violent way to begin. The attack occured in the home where the book’s author, Lauren St John, would later move in and grow up: the game reserve called Rainbow’s End. Even though she was not there that night, the event had a great affect on the direction of Lauren’s family and her own life. There are also a few scattered references to things better skipped over, and some language, although it’s not very liberaly sprinkled. This lady did not grow up in a Christian home, and actually, the story is the story of her family slowly falling apart, and a young girl having to figure things out mostly on her own. So be forewarned.
But. It is also the story of the Rhodesian Bush War of the 1960’s-early 1980’s, from the perspective of a descendant of four generations of “European” Rhodesians. It is living history, history of a place and time I knew very little about. It is a compelling snapshot of the life of a child growing into an adult in an extraordinary, frightening, time and in a world that seems so strangely unlike what I thought Africa, or Zibabwe, is or ever was. Yes, I know, I am showing my ignorance.
As the story comes to a close, Ms. St John speaks of the changing of names, beginning with the very name of the country, from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe. The city where she attended school even gained a new name: Harare. And I thought, I know that name! That is one of the cities that our congregation sends Bible correspondence courses to. I’ve graded many myself. In fact, I have a letter, given to me by another “teacher”, from a 20-year-old student who is seeking a pen-pal. I’ve had it for months, and somehow I just haven’t known what to say. I went and dug it out of my desk today, and looked at the address, just to make sure: yes, Beaulah is from Zimbabwe. In fact, she lives in the very town about which Lauren St John writes. I’ve been reading about her own home, albeit 25-30 years ago, but what a nice surprise. Maybe now I can find something to say!
A review, from someone obviously more practiced than I at writing them, is here.