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Journey of Hope: Two Novels    by Lurlene McDaniel order for
Journey of Hope
by Lurlene McDaniel
Order:  USA  Can
Laurel Leaf, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Journey of Hope includes two previously published stories, Angel of Mercy and Angel of Hope, of which Lurlene McDaniel tells readers: 'These two books are close to my heart. A number of years ago I accompanied a missionary team to Uganda. There I met extraordinary people - missionaries, doctors, and American kids who were working in extreme conditions to help make a difference in the lives of others.' I came away very affected by these two stories, which pay tribute to those individuals who dedicate their lives to humane causes.

Eighteen-year old Heather Barlow wants to make a difference in the world. In Angel of Mercy, she joins a mission group sailing to Africa. Aboard ship she meets an Oxford medical and seminary student - Ian McCollum from Edinburgh, Scotland - who becomes her inspiration. Ian tells Heather, 'We're all on the journey of a lifetime. God is our shepherd, and we have only to do what He asks of us. Kindness for one another, love for each other, that is what will change the world. Medicine can heal the body. But only God can make well the human soul.' They fly to Uganda and the Kasana mission hospital and Children's Home in Lwereo.

Heather dispenses meds and instructions to endless lines of people. As she holds a weightless dead baby in her arms, Heather realizes that 'Death was final. Death was irrevocable. Life was flutterings and tremblings ... It was flesh that felt warm and didn't look waxy.' When unexpected tragedy hits, Heather is spun into a state of inertia. Yet she volunteers for a dangerous mission to save baby Alice, a child with a cleft palate left behind in Sudan. Heather learns that most Ugandans belong to the Hutu tribe and that 'the fighting in Sudan and Rwanda is due to militant Hutu rebels killing Tutsi tribe members', acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing which are also about power and control of land.

In Angel of Hope, Heather has returned to the States. She holds close to her heart the friends she made, the African landscape, the faces of children, and her love for Ian. Heather has high hopes of influencing her cranial-facial surgeon parents to operate on baby Alice. She again postpones college, announcing she will return to Africa. When sister Amber tells her, 'I guess I expected you to be the same sister I remembered growing up with instead of the one who came back from Africa', Heather responds, 'I'm not the same sister. I'm the one who watched babies die just because they couldn't get to a doctor in time. I saw mothers abandon their children because they couldn't take care of them.'

Mom finally agrees to go to Uganda with her older daughter to operate on Alice, but when Heather becomes very ill, Amber volunteers to go instead. At the Women's Clinic in Uganda, Amber falls in love with irrigation engineer Boyce Callahan. In Africa she learns that chicken doesn't come 'in tidy-wrapped cellophane packages', and that 'wicked men thought nothing of taking a young girl by force simply because she belonged to a particular tribe.' Amber befriends Ruth, who was raped by rebels at age twelve and now counsels other women. Amber and Boyce accompany Ruth and her fiancÚ Patrick to a joyous reunion in Ruth's village. Then word arrives of rebels on their way to raid. When the foursome is encouraged to escape into the night, Amber takes a crippled child with them ... 'Crouching low, the five of them ran into the night, like leaves blown by a cruel wind.'

Lurlene McDaniel conveys a hard African reality through exceptional characters. The spread of the HIV virus affects one in three Africans. 'Almost half of the Ugandan population is under fifteen years of age, and orphaned.' McDaniel writes of the beauty of the country and gives readers unforgettable stories that linger long.

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