Jan 8, 2019

Our House in Arusha

by Sara Tucker

Memoir of times the author spent living in Arusha, Tanzania and in Togo with her family of three. It started when she first visited Africa as a travel writer from New York, and met safari guide Patrick- a man born in France who had spent most of his adult life in West Africa. The book is in patches- some telling of the author's own experiences, other chapters relate her husband's adventures, both well-written but sometimes the narrative hopping back and forth is confusing. What's admirable is how much they simply wanted to make it work- Patrick fell in love with Africa as a young man and just did whatever he could to be there: safari tours, guide for trophy hunters, crocodile poacher, reconnaissance spy, hotel manager, you name it, he took the job if it got him out in the bush near animals. There are a few incidents related with wildlife- a leopard cub he raised, a close encounter with a wildebeest when his vehicle got stuck in a ditch- but more is about the political and social turmoil of the area, and how the family managed to live there. The author herself often spent long months with her husband's son keeping their house running while Patrick was off on a job. Hours of boredom, dealing with the locals who worked for them, constant expectation of being robbed. Fondness for some aspects it all, tedium with others. Reading about the ex-pats' lifestyle reminded me somewhat of Rules of the Wild (fiction). Another large part of this book is about the author's relationship with her stepson, what it was like for him to grow up in Africa, to make adjustments to boarding school among other things. It kept feeling like a foreign story from a time and place quite removed from myself, and then I would come across a detail that reminded me this story is quite current: she's reading Harry Potter with her stepson, he's playing World of Warcraft, they're standing on a street in New York looking at smoke in the sky above the spot where the Twin Towers used to be. Because at the end, a contract for working as warden in a game park in Togo falls through after they have sold all their household goods in preparations to move, and the family decides to come back to America. She's written a second book about the next six years living in Vermont, not sure if I'll look for it.

Rating: 3/5             287 pages, 2011


bermudaonion said...

I love books like this!

Jeane said...

Turns out I have several memoirs from various African countries in my piles, let's see what's next.