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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
The next time you feel life is overwhelming you, that you can’t go on and that you don’t understand why you have been dealt the worst hand in the deck, pick up a “restorative narration” like Escaping the Lion and the Leopard by Ellie Porte Parker. This true story about Ghabriela, whose beautiful face graces the cover of this sometimes gut-wrenching narrative, will help you feel better about your own lot in life. Escaping the Lion and the Leopard is riveting, eye-opening, touching and true. You may not care for narrative memoirs, but this is one you won’t easily forget.
When Ghabriela, the youngest child in her family, was born in Ethiopia, her siblings were in their later teens or already married. Her mother adored her and Ghabriela felt loved and happy. But very suddenly one day, her mother passed away. Ghabriela’s 17-year-old brother, Andu, the only other person who really loved her, promised to look after the heart-broken child. Andu rushed into an arranged marriage so Ghabriela could have a family to look after her. But for Ghabriela, this was the beginning of years of loneliness, neglect and mental abuse, not by Andu, but by all who were supposed to help look after her: Andu’s new teenage wife and Ghabriela’s own older sister who lived far away from Andu. Neither woman wanted the burden of looking after Ghabriela and they made sure she knew it. After spending years in a orphan children's home where Ghabriela discovered her own inner strengths but little to no love, it was time for her to find her own way in life. To tell you all she went through after that, looking for love wherever she could find it, would be to spoil your reading of this story. Her dreams of one day having her own family, a man to love and care for her, and children of her own faded while she walked barefoot through the streets, often starving and, despite her belief in God, wondering why He wasn’t helping her. What had she done to deserve this?
As you read Escaping the Lion and the Leopard, you will also learn a lot about life for women in Africa and how different it is from that of ours in North America. However, you might come away feeling even a bit guilty for complaining about not being able to afford something you want but don’t really need. Ghabriela never had that luxury. But before you think this is a weepy, “poor me” kind of story, it is anything but. Parker narrates this story in first person, capturing Ghabriela’s voice and emotions beautifully and realistically, but she keeps the focus on how struggles make us stronger. As the ever resilient, courageous Ghabriela runs from the lion to the leopard, she shows us what survival is all about: believing in yourself and never giving up on your dreams. Don’t miss reading Escaping the Lion and the Leopard by Ellie Porte Parker. You will come away, as Ghabriela did, better, stronger, happier. Highly recommended.