I received a free copy of this book in order to give an honest review.
Kusiima stretched, crackling the dried leaves that formed the stuffing for his mattress. He could hear the bleat of his goats in the other room… Although your adolescent reader has probably never slept on a mattress stuffed with leaves or woken to the sound of goats in the house, he’ll quickly identify with Kusiima the protagonist of “A Forest, a Flood, and an Unlikely Star”. Author J.A. Myhre skillfully captures the hope native to youth, along with bravado and frustration.
Myhre wrote this story at the request of her own children who had received previous Rwendigo Tales as Christmas gifts.”A Forest a Flood and an Unlikely Star” is set in Rwedingo, “near the center of the continent of Africa”. The experiences of Kusiima’s family are based on experiences that Dr. Myhre has witnessed during her two decades on the continent. Issues addressed include poverty, deforestation, and AIDS.
As the mother of a boy who is moving quickly toward manhood, I was excited to have the opportunity to review, “A Forest, a Flood, and an Unlikely Star.” My son is an avid reader and enjoys and intense read, probably more than his mother.
Before handing the book to my child, I read it myself. The first few chapters felt a little slow. The author takes her time bringing the reader into the world of Kusiima, an African boy who is struggling to help his elderly grandmother care for his ill sister. She paints vivid pictures that will serve the reader well once the drama of the story takes off, which it will!
Mature readers can be encouraged to push through to the faster paced section of the book. Younger readers may do better reading the first several chapters together before finishing the book on their own.
As the story line builds, the author naturally weaves in common African struggles such as poverty, environmental destruction, and family decay. Kusiima is a likable character, an I immediately empathized with the concrete struggles these often abstract issues created in his life. My initial reaction was the typical western pity. However, my pity quickly turned to admiration as I saw Kusiima and other characters in the book demonstrate strength and wisdom that more than equaled the challenges.
I was reminded of the Africans I have known personally. Each one is amazingly strong, brilliant, and generous. In “A Forest, a Flood, and an Unlikely Star” Myhre gives us a portrait of Africa that accurately reflects the wonderful African people. At the end of the book, I found myself left with a sense of hopeful empathy.
Refreshingly, Myhre leaves westerners out of her tale, referencing them only vaguely. She discusses religion but without definite conclusions. In fact, she refrains from giving pat answers on any of complicated issues she raises, making this book a wonderful place to begin discussions.
After finishing this book, I placed the other Rwendingo Tales in my Amazon cart without hesitation. Here’s a (non-affiliate) link to “A Forest, a Flood, and an Unlikely Star”. Myhre is committed to giving half the proceeds to helping overcome the issues she raises in her work, so buying this book is a great way to both build understanding of the issues facing the African people, and helping them overcome them.
“A Forest, a Flood and an Unlikely Star” makes a great read for adults, and for children who are ready to handle non-graphic descriptions of violence and vague references to sexual behavior. “A Forest, a Flood, and an Unlikely Star” will allow you and your adolescent reader to experience the tragedies of the African continent, and the beauty of the African people, even if you never have the opportunity to wake up on a bed of leaves, or share your housing with goats.