When A Crocodile Eats the Sun
Little, Brown & Co., 2007 (2007)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch
ward-winning journalist Peter Godwin has written a moving account of his ties to his African homeland. The title of the book refers to the way tribal Africans view a solar eclipse, a phenomenon they consider to be a bad omen. The book is part political commentary about the current deplorable conditions in much of Africa, particularly in his native Zimbabwe, and part personal memoir.
he book is really a tribute to his parents, Helen and George, who adamantly refused to leave Africa despite the increased violence against whites in Zimbabwe. Helen was an English-born doctor who cared
for countless patients, regardless of race or ability to pay. George struggled with health problems for many years, and Godwin called upon every resource he had to bring modern medicine to his family.
odwin writes lovingly of his parents and sisters, one of whom died decades earlier, just weeks before her wedding. When his younger sister is preparing for her wedding, his father refuses to join in the festivities until the last moment. And there is a moving scene where Godwin tries to remove his late sister's body from the vandalized cemetery.
oven throughout the personal portion of the memoir are stories about Africa: insufficient medical care; the AIDS epidemic; the tyrannical Robert Mugabe; the failure of a country to care for its citizens; and the consequences of being white in a mostly black Zimbabwe.
espite his moving to New York and raising a family, Africa is still in Godwin's blood. While traveling back and forth to visit his parents, either for personal reasons or on journalistic assignment, Godwin uncovers a shocking family secret that challenges his identity and his sense of self.
odwin, who also wrote
Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa
, is a straight shooter who tells it like it is, though there are several laugh out loud lines, which create just the right amount of humorous deflection from a somber-toned story. The author is a talented writer - the reader really can feel the African landscape and get a sense of what it would be like to a be a targeted white minority.
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