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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Ben (Amie in Africa Series Back Story) is an introduction by author Lucinda E Clarke to Ben Mtumba, a secondary character in her Amie in Africa series. We meet Ben as a young boy about to enter manhood. Although Ben is the son of the chief’s brother and therefore highly ranked within the tribe, Ben has spent the bulk of his childhood and education away from the rural kraal and in the country’s capital city, where he attended the International School and excelled. It is time, however, to return to the village of his birth and to take the steps into African manhood; steps that include an unhygienic and dangerous circumcision rite that Ben is terrified about. Ben has spent his teenage years learning about the wide world and the modern way. This clash between his tribal upbringing and their beliefs and his understanding of the way things are in the developed world will create a tension that Ben must work hard to overcome. Pressured by his rich and powerful father to follow in the family business, Ben has other dreams and other opportunities he wants to pursue.
I have read several of the Amie books by Lucinda E Clarke and I had met the character Ben Mtumba as a young man, so it was fascinating for me to journey back to the rural heartland and see the forces and traditions that shaped and challenged him. Ben provides us with insight into the cultural clash between modern science, modern medicine, and the beliefs of the inhabitants of rural African villages, with their spiritual, medical and hierarchical customs and mores built up over thousands of years. I particularly enjoyed Ben’s mother and her worldview plus her explanation of the lack of understanding, in the West, of the grandeur and magnificence of early African civilization. Clearly passionate about her subject, the author’s descriptive abilities and her easy-to-read prose make this dip back into a character’s past both exciting, adventurous and instructive. The problems and decision-making that faced Ben are not very different from all those decisions we expect our children to routinely make. Despite the cultural differences, I am sure most readers will recognize something of themselves in all the characters in this short backstory. I love Clarke’s writing and this is no exception – highly recommended.