FIRST COMES LOVE, THEN COMES MALARIA by Eve Brown-Waite

Book Quote:

“So tell me why you want to join the Peace Corps?” John looked across the table at me with his emerald eyes, and my heart danced a jig although my boobs stayed firm in their minimizing bra. I was moved by how earnestly he seemed to want to know. Okay, he was the recruiter and it was his job to ask. But, still, I was flattered by his attention. I was glad I had chosen to dress in safari chic for my interview.”

Book Review:

Reviewed by Jana L. Perksie (MAY 07, 2009)


I was drawn to Eve Brown-Waite’s book because my own experience is so similar to hers. I met and married my ex-husband shortly before he accepted a job with CARE. He worked for the not-for-profit organization for 18 years. We spent 15 of them living in developing countries, most of them in Latin America. Our first posting, however, was in pre-revolution Iran, where our daughter was born. While I was not in the Peace Corps, several of our closest friends were. I can especially relate to the author’s frustration with the difficult task of finding work in the host country. I was fortunate to find jobs in many of the countries where we lived, and CARE even hired me as a consultant on a few occasions. Still, no matter how exciting the experience of living in some extraordinary places can be, a life without meaningful work can also be very unfulfilling.

In First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria: How A Peace Corps Poster Boy Won My Heart & A Third World Adventure Changed My Life, Ms. Brown-Waite first chronicles her life prior to joining the Peace Corps. Then she writes of her Peace Corps experience in the late 1980s, and finally she tells of her time with her husband, John, in Uganda, where he worked for CARE.

Frankly, I could have done without the book’s initial chapters where the author meets Peace Corps interviewer, John Waite, “with his straight white teeth and sweetly freckled face”…and “the most adorable red fuzz on his arms which matched the glints of red in his slightly wavy brown hair.” He, in turn, notices her “boobs.” She pursues her future husband with a vengeance and uses some hokey humor to describe their romance. I really wish she had kept this part of the narrative to a minimum.

Part two, where she writes about her time in Ecuador, is fascinating. Her primary job involves escorting “lost boys,” (usually runaways), from a local orphanage back to their families in other towns. Eve struggles with stress and adjustment problems throughout her first year, as do many volunteers. However, when a friend is raped, she loses it. She is “medevaced” back to the US to receive therapy, and finds that she has repressed a traumatic event in her childhood, related to her friend’s rape, which triggered her panic attacks. Ultimately, she leaves the Peace Corps early, after a year’s service. She expresses herself with honesty and her story is most compelling. I had to laugh, however, as she describes her first days back in the US, after a year in Latin America, taking sightseeing tours of supermarkets, “oohing and ahhing her way up and down the aisles after months of deprivation.” I remember doing the same. I also identify when she writes a letter to a friend, telling her, “OK. I get it. Life in the Third World sucks. People are poor and desperate and awful things happen all the time. I can now walk past an entire family, living in a cardboard and plastic shack beside an open sewer pit, and not flinch.”

Ms. Brown-Waite’s recounting of her life in Uganda is what really makes this a worthwhile read. She finally marries John, who has obtained a two year contract with CARE as a manager of a savings and loan project in Arua, Uganda. Her life, as a CARE “dependent spouse,” is totally different than it was as a Peace Corps volunteer. Their lovely, large house has a garden, beautiful furniture and comes equipped with servants. There are dinner parties, tennis games, etc., with the very interesting folks who make up the expatriate community. She writes, “It’s not just that I was perceived as wealthy. In Uganda, for the first time in my life, I actually was wealthy…because even the few possessions that I had brought with me to Arua were more than most of my neighbors would ever have in their lives. I was wealthy because I didn’t have to live solely by what I could grow or catch; because I was educated and because I was American. I was wealthy, because, in the end, I could go home.”

The Waites spend three years in Uganda – John’s contract is extended. During this period the reader sees Eve mature and evolve. She finds meaningful work, has a child and learns to cope and enjoy her life. Arua eventually becomes “home.”

The book is written as a journal, of sorts, with letters to and from friends and family interspersed with her entries. The author’s writing is uneven at times, but the pace is fast, and I became really interested during her time in Ecuador…interested enough to finish the book in two sittings. I also enjoyed her description of the people she meets and comes to care for in Africa.

I really give the author credit. I, along with so many others who have had similar experiences abroad, are told by family and friends to “write a book.” I wouldn’t know where to start. The author obviously did. Kudos to Eve Brown-Waite for sharing her valuable and entertaining memoir with us.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 21 reviewers
PUBLISHER: Broadway (April 14, 2009)
REVIEWER: Jana L. Perskie
AMAZON PAGE: First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Eve Brown-Waite
EXTRAS: Reading Guide andВ Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Of possible interest:
Acts of Faith by Philip Caputo
An Embarrassment of Mangoes by Ann Vanderhoof
Holy Cow by Sarah MacDonald

Bibliography:


May 7, 2009 В· Judi Clark В· No Comments
Tags: ,  В· Posted in: Africa, Non-fiction, Reading Guide, World Lit

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