Saturday, October 26, 2019

Hallowed Ground: The Mystery of the African Fairy Circles, by Paul Twivy

The Conrad Press, September 2019

Joe Kaplan, Freddie Wilde, and Hannah Chiang--one American and two British teenagers--arrive in Namibia due to their parents' jobs. Ben Kaplan is an anthropologist; Barbara Kaplan has been assigned by the hotel chain she works for to develop a new site; Ralph Wilde is the new British High Commissioner to Namibia; Helen Wilde is a doctor who will be working with AIDS patients; Li Chiang is a mining engineer employed by the Chinese government to develop a uranium mine in Namibia; Sarah Chiang is a special needs teacher who will be working at a local school.

Joe, Freddie, and Hannah are all enrolled at the same boarding school, and quickly become friends. On a school trip, they meet Selima van Zyl, daughter of Ilana van Zyl, a Namibian tour guide, and Darius van Zyl, son of an Afrikaner farmer who is "an entrepreneur" currently giving tours of the magnificent Namibian sand dunes. The four teens quickly become best friends, and adopting the title of Four Teenagers of the Apocalypse, they get interested in the Namibian "fairy circles," strange circles rimmed by drylands grass and completely barren within. Selima can tell them some of the stories of the various Namibian tribes about these circles, but Joe in particular wants to know what the truth is.

Then a body is discovered in the test dig being done at the potential hotel site Barbara Kaplan is working on, and it seems it may be the body of a British soldier and explorer from the 1830s. This is followed by the discovery of a mass grave in the test dig for the mine Li Chiang is working on--and it appears to be from the German genocide of the Herero and Nama peoples between 1904 and 1907.

Suddenly a collection of very different people who would have thought they had little in common, are brought together to solve the superficially unrelated mysteries of the fairy circles and the dead soldier, and the crisis of the disturbed mass grave.

The adults and the teenagers are all interesting, complicated individuals, with solid, decent characters, but very different viewpoints. As anyone with a family will know, even family members can see things very differently. They have find a way through competing viewpoints, outside forces including what Brexit is doing to British needs, the demands of Barbara Kaplan's and Li Chiang's employers, Ilana's devotion to protecting the heritage of her country, the wholly understandable rage of Namibians when the bodies of the genocide victims are moved by one of Li Chiang's ambitious underlings. Meanwhile, the teenagers' focus on the fairy circles may not be as irrelevant as it seems.

This is a mix of great characters, serious problems, and a culture and environment that's unfamiliar and fascinating.


I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

No comments:

Post a Comment