I am, of course, familiar with Stanley and Livingstone of “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” This novel, by Kerry McDonald, is told from the point of view of Dr. Livingstone’s sister, Janet. When the book opens, no one has heard from David Livingstone for years. Everyone, except his sister, believes he is dead. Then the mail brings a necklace, one she’d given her brother. There’s no note, but the address is in his handwriting. She has proof David is alive and needs her help.
Janet has never left her Scottish village, and the notion of this trip scares her. But it’s her beloved brother, David. She must go along to ensure no one gives up the search. Her determination is not at all admired by Henry Stanley, the American journalist who leads the expedition. He’s brash and over-confident, positive she will slow them down or give up entirely. Goma Foutou, the African co-leader of the expedition, smoothes a lot of friction between Henry and Janet. His support is critical, and leads to the hint of a deeper relationship forming.
The predictable elements of this book initially made me think I wouldn’t like it. After all, the reader knows they will find David Livingstone alive. The idea isn’t new of a strong but fearful woman attempting the unknown, and I knew from the beginning she would overcome it and be successful. In order to hold my interest, then, the book would have to be amazing. Although it didn’t quite rise to amazing, Into Africa did a good job of keeping me reading. On the way to Ujiji, the village where David lies sick and dying, Janet, Henry, and Goma encounter obstacles that tell about Africa at the time while developing their characters. Three chapters of the book are spent in the village as David dies and they decide what to do with the body. They take a different trail out of the village, and the rest of the book tells of their experiences on that journey.
By this time, Janet has found her stalwart soul and even begins looking at Goma like a man. I wasn’t sure where the author was going with that potential relationship. It never develops, which fits the times and the person Janet is, and doesn’t seem to serve a purpose. She could have grown to admire Goma without having a physical interest in him.
I did smile when Henry Stanley tells David that the Pacific Railroad in the United States is finished, and a telegraph cable laid across the Atlantic, and the Suez Canal opened. Just like a reporter to share those events!
Overall, this book was interesting but not particularly compelling. I would recommend adding it to your TBR.
Kerry McDonald writes entertaining, provocative action-adventure stories. An expert marksman and overall adrenaline junkie, Kerry’s stories are born of a life filled with rock climbing, BASE jumping, paragliding, yoga, meditation, lucid dreaming, and survival-focused getaways.
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