Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer

This novel is a Young Adult account of a girl set apart from her family because her parents are both gone: the father ran off and the mother was eaten by a leopard. The atmosphere is strong and the story is well done. She's grandly competent at survival, a side benefit from her avid curiosity and her extended family's use of her as a servant/slave. When circumstances drive her from her home, there follows a lively mix of realistic description and methods of survival tangled into her understanding of and visits from the spirit world. This book was recommended to me as research into becoming feral, and though it ended up being a different kind of feral than I was seeking, it provides a great introduction into relatively modern relationships between the various tribes and racial groups in Zimbabwe and Mozambique as well as giving a real sense of the wilderness areas.

Now in the bigger scope of things, this book does provide a fascinating counterpoint to The Secret Life of Bees. Here you have a dead mother who is still somewhat present and influencing her, an absent rather than ignoring father and a grand, cross-country adventure. Though I had more in common with the Secret of Bees' main character socially, I could identify better with Nhamo. The reason? She suffered her adversity with grace and worked to better her life. She was an active character in her own success while the other girl often blamed others and looked down on those who didn't meet her ideals rather than considering that maybe they had their own place and their own strengths. Is one better than the other? Of course not. But is one preferable when I choose my own reading material? Absolutely. I guess I don't have much patience with whiners when seeking entertainment...must be why so many comedians leave me cold as well :).

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