Zephyr Books/Head of Zeus
It’s a long way from the wide blue skies and shimmering heat haze of Kenya to the bleak snow covered moors of Inverness and for 12 year old Makena the journey is not just a geographical one.
Much loved only child of a science teacher mother and a mountain guide father, Makena burns with passion for the mountains and climbing reckoning them her friends. When her parents are caught up in the Ebola outbreak on a mercy mission to Sierra Leone and die there, Makena’s world implodes into grief, loss of identity and homelessness. A spectacularly unsuccessful relocation to her paternal uncle’s poor home where his wife treats Makena as an unpaid servant ends abruptly and Makena finds herself fending for herself in the slums of Nairobi. Surviving like a gutter rat for a month or more, she is then swept up in a redevelopment which ruthlessly bulldozes the slums and she then finds herself rescued by a charitable organisation for girls and meets Helen. Just as Makena is recuperating from her trauma and a case of cholera, Helen has disappeared back to her parents’ home in Scotland and once again Makena feels herself abandoned. But unexpectedly, arrangements are made for the young girl to spend a month over Christmas in the wilds of Scotland. No spoilers here but suffice to say there is a happy ending for all.
This is just beautiful. It is warm and moving and oozes love despite the sadness threading throughout it. It is also somewhat mystical with the recurring motif of a special fox that seems to be akin to a guardian angel. There are lots of points of discussion; forgotten/orphaned children, civil war, rich vs poor, healing and the power of nature and love.
I read this in one sitting (well, lying down last night in bed) as I couldn’t put it down. Lauren St John’s books about Africa have been wildly popular in my library for the past year or so and my prediction is that this will be just as enthusiastically received.
Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.