Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Dancer in the Dust by Thomas H Cook ****

Twenty years ago Ray Campbell went to the fictional African country of Lubanda as a young idealistic aid worker. There he met (and fell in love with) Martine Aubert, a white, but still native born, Lubandan. As too often happens in Africa, things did not go well.

Two questions drive the narrative of A Dancer in the Dust by Thomas H Cook. First, what really happened twenty year ago, The Tumasi Road Incident? This is the mystery, but the soul of this novel is in the second question: What is the role of aid in the development of Africa?

With liberally interspersed combinations of flashbacks and sleuthing, Ray Campbell, the first-person protagonist, solves the first question. If you want an international, geopolitical mystery, this is the book for you.

However, this novel is more than a mystery. The story explores Ray's growth and his change in understanding. In the beginning he has a naive view the need, benefit, and potential of aid and development. He is a committed part of the network of NGOs bringing help to Africa. In the end his position is shaken and he is unsure of the way to go.

Cook makes a compelling case against both humanitarian and developmental aid. Unfortunately, the alternative is ... a dancer in the dust.

I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway on May 22, 2014. I received my copy on June 13, 2014.

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