The story opens with the burial of its hero, Tom, who has been an NGO worker in Africa for much of his life, most recently in Rwanda at the time of the genocide…
Tom’s life partner, Clotilde embarks on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela with a dysfunctional Melbourne parish group. After the pilgrimage Clotilde and her friend Isabel travel in Spain, France, and Italy before Clotilde stops over in Nairobi to spend a few days with Tom on her way back to Melbourne.
The comfortably-off, perhaps self-indulgent, first-world group does not always appear to advantage when juxtaposed with the Rwandese and their experience of genocide in 1994. And they seem even lightweight, obsessed with trifling concerns, when compared with the NGO workers who relinquish comfort, security, and sometimes their life as they endeavour to bring even a modicum of relief to people in crisis.
Tom and Clotilde enjoy an unconventional relationship. They spend more time apart than together but, as Clotilde claims, part-time ecstasy is better than full-time ennui. When apart, they write to each other, and their correspondence discloses greater depth in the character each presents.
Does love really conquer all? Does being a believer stop you from being a dreadful person? Is there any point in being kind when most people these days equate kindness with weakness? Why tell the truth when mendacity triumphs all the time? Does altruism exist? Does self-interest rule the world? Why does evil shadow people through decades and generations?
Rosalyn Taylor lives in Australia and works as a librarian at a large university. After teaching English to South Sudanese refugees and asylum seeker’s in the 2000s, Rosalyn was captivated by their courageous and harrowing stories and this awakened her interest in Africa, which has inspired her writing today.