Friday, 20 June 2014

Review: The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison.

Book: The Garden of Burning Sand

Author: Corban Addison

Pages: 445

How Long it Took Me To Read: 3 days

Read On: Paperback

Plot Summary: Lusaka, Zambia: Zoe Fleming is a young, idealistic American lawyer working with an NGO devoted to combatting the epidemic of child sexual assault in southern Africa. Zoe’s organization is called in to help when an adolescent girl is brutally assaulted. The girl’s identity is a mystery. Where did she come from? Was the attack a random street crime or a premeditated act?

A betrayal in her past gives the girl’s plight a special resonance for Zoe, and she is determined to find the perpetrator. She slowly forms a working relationship, and then a surprising friendship, with Joseph Kabuta, a Zambian police officer. Their search takes them from Lusaka’s roughest neighbourhoods to the wild waters of Victoria Falls, from the AIDS-stricken streets of Johannesburg to the matchless splendour of Cape Town.

As the investigation builds to a climax, threatening to send shockwaves through Zambian society, Zoe is forced to radically reshape her assumptions about love, loyalty, family and, especially, the meaning of justice.

General Thoughts: I am always looking to read more from places I haven't read about or from before. I bought this book while book  shopping on World Book Day. It sounded amazing and was set in Zambia and I wanted to give it a shot. My sister read this before I did and I read it soon after. 

Things I Liked: 

1. The writing and the pace of the narrative were good. It kept you involved and engrossed and this book is quite the page turner. 

2. The investigative pieces in the story were interesting and well done. Zoe and Joseph's efforts to find out about the young victim's mother's past are intense and well sketched out. 

3. The details about the justice system in Zambia were interesting to read about. Equally interesting were the glimpses into Zambian life, politics and perceptions of people, especially, towards rape victims and people battling with HIV. 

4. The supporting cast of characters- Zoe's friends from the NGO as well as the other expats who help Zoe and Joseph in their quest- were well fleshed out. The glimpses into the expat life in Zambia were also interesting to read about. 

5. The actual mystery connecting the victim's mother's past to the perpetrator of the rape was slightly predictable but nicely done nonetheless. 

Things I Didn't Like: 
1. The romance between Zoe and Joseph was a bit forced and not really needed in a story like this. Also, it comes out of nowhere. One minute they are solving a crime and the next minute Zoe is in love with him! There is no build-up whatsoever, either in terms of Joseph's character or the things about him that attract Zoe. 

2. Also, we get to see glimpses of Zoe's past and the source of her strained relationship with her dad. While these bits were useful to an extent, they just dragged the narrative and slowed the pace of the book and were not as interesting or relevant to the story. 

3. Also, Zoe's instant connection with the child who'd been raped was a bit bizarre. She didn't really spend time with the kid and she was suddenly the No. 1 champion for the kid's rights and for ensuring her safety and future. This connection between the two of them could have been better handled. 

4. The connection between what was happening in Zambia with a faux-Presidential race in the US was, again, in my opinion, not needed. There was no need to bring in this whole angle of what kind of aid should or should not be given to Africa and by whom. It was not essential to this story and it muddied the waters a bit. 

Rating: 3.5/5 

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