THIRTY GIRLS by Susan Minot

Book Quote:

“I woke this morning and remembered something I thought forgotten, a time they caught a man on a bicycle and cut off his foot. If you are on a bicycle the rebels think you may be delivering news. The man’s wife came out and they told her to eat that foot.

You don’t forget such things, even if they are not appearing. They are just in the back of your mind, waiting.

Sometimes I want to hit myself with stones.”

Book Review:

Review by Bonnie Brody  (FEB 11, 2014)

Thirty Girls by Susan Minot is a powerful novel that is based on a true story. It takes place in Kenya, Uganda and Sudan and is the story of the abduction of over one hundred girls from a convent school in Uganda. A nun by the name of Giulia travels to the site of the abductors, who call themselves the LRA, and negotiates for the release of all but thirty of the girls. Thus, the title of the book.

The novel opens as an American journalist named Jane finds herself in Nairobi. She is there to do a piece on the abduction of Ugandan children by the LRA. So far, about 10,000 children have been abducted over seventeen years and many of them have been killed. Some of the girls have escaped and returned home only to find out that their families no longer want them. Many of them have borne children through rape by LRA members. Others have contracted AIDS. Jane and her friends start on a trek to Uganda to interview the abductees who have escaped and made it home.

Jane is a lost soul. She has written a book previously that many have read. The novel does not mention what the book is about or when it was written. It just appears that many people in Nairobi have read it. She is looking to find herself but does not know where to look. Mostly, she tries being around other people and finds herself in relationships where she enjoys the sex. Currently, she is in a relationship with Harry who is 22 years old. Jane is thirty-seven. Little by little, she is convincing herself that she is in love with Harry though they have known each other for only a very short time, barely three weeks by the end of the novel.

The chapters are interspersed with Jane’s story and that of Esther’s. Esther is one of the girls who was kidnapped by the LRA from her convent school in Uganda. She is pregnant by her LRA “husband” and is not sure how she will feel about her child. While she is in captivity, her mother dies of cancer and her father is incapacitated by an accident. She tries her best to make it through each day but it is a horrific experience and some days she is not sure she can do another day. “Some days were worse that others. You walked past children sleeping on the ground then saw they were not sleeping, they were dead.”

Jane manages to interview Esther and is working on doing an article about the thirty girls. However, she finds herself thinking more of Harry than of her work. “Thoughts of Harry came in the day like reveries, then she would stop the thoughts. How could she be thinking so lightly of love, here in a place where people’s lips were cut off and girls were snatched out of their beds?”

The LRA is like a cult, headed by a man named Kony. Kony has multiple personality disorder, perhaps seizures and runs the LRA through magical thinking. The LRA has no real political purpose. It seeks out weak prey, then kidnaps them. Kony has this idea that by impregnating the girls, he will grow a family. The boys turn into rebels themselves. “Some children believed what they told us. Some of us became rebels. When you were given a gun you started to kill and after a while you would look at yourself and say, I am a rebel now.” The LRA reminded me of the Manson clan, only larger.

The novel is very well written and is the strongest piece of writing that I have read by Susan Minot. It is difficult to read in places because of the violence but it rang very true to life. I highly recommend it.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 13 readers
PUBLISHER: Knopf (February 11, 2014)
REVIEWER: Bonnie Brody
EXTRAS: Excerpt
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February 11, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Africa, Facing History, World Lit

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