This is a thoroughly absorbing and lyrical biography of the author’s grandmother, born in Ethiopia in 1916 and destined to live through the turbulent changes experienced by this country as it emerged from a theocratic feudalism to a war-ravaged, communist nation. From childhood to child-bride to mother to widow to grandmother, this woman’s story captivates. The prose is restrained and yet lyrical, filling the reader’s imagination with the scents, sounds and searing heat of a country stamped with an enduring culture many centuries old. This book is for those who love words and a real story.
The dominant religion of the country during the period being described is Christianity but the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has become enmeshed with the ruling dynasty and some of the practices described in the book will strike the reader as more pagan than Christian. As revealed in the afterword penned by the author herself, her own grasp of Christianity has been gleaned from sources inclined to criticise that faith. This does not affect the book itself, however, which could be read and enjoyed by anyone interested in social history.