This was a sweet and fun book, although disturbing in parts. One of the disturbing parts came right on the first page, second paragraph, where I read, "She'd been born and raised in Oxford, Ohio, the home of Miami University." Only I'm the USA can you get such an utter rip-off and bastardization of names. Oxford is purloined directly from England, of course. Ohio isn't even an American Indian name. The name was oyo or o-he-yo which meant simply 'big water'.
Finally comes Miami university - in Ohio, not in Florida much less actually in Miami! The hilarious thing here is that that isn't even the name: the name was Mayaimi after a people who were pretty quickly rendered extinct because of the depredations of white folks. The name itself means? Big water! LOL! Of course Oxford itself is named so because it was the place where the oxen crossed the...big water! Water, water, water and not a drop to drink!
The story relates the tale of a young African girl Buakane, who is effectively sold to a brutal chieftain as one of his many wives, but who, on her wedding night, decides she'd rather run away than submit to this. She ends up at a missionary school where a brand new recruit and college-grad, Julia, has freshly arrived, ready to become the director of the school. Julia meets Hank, who is the bereaved father of Clementine, a young girl known locally as The Great Distraction, and who is the third in this trio of strong female characters who dominate this story.
During her escape, Buakane is set upon by hyenas and gets bitten in the thigh. Fortunately, Hank happens to be driving by, bringing Julia to the mission, and they're able to pick up the wouldn't-be bride and deliver her to dour Nurse Doyer who happens to be a skilled nurse although a truly unpleasant person. Quite honestly, I could have done without the references to Mrs and the reverend Doyer. Other than the sewing up and Buakane's wound, if they'd been omitted entirely from the story it wouldn't have made a bit of difference to it.
That aside though, I loved each of these characters. Obviously there is a strong religious element to the story, and while I feared this might ruin it for me, in the end it wasn't an issue. Each of the three main characters was in their element and strong and feisty and amusing. To watch them interact and in particular to see how the problem of the chieftain demanding his wife back or demanding Julia's head is resolved, was a joy. I loved this story and highly commend it.