Summary and book reviews of Love in the Driest Season by Neely Tucker

Love in the Driest Season

A Family Memoir

By Neely Tucker

Love in the Driest Season
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2004,
    256 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2005,
    288 pages.

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Book Summary

Winner of the 2005 BookBrowse Sapphire Award for Most Popular Debut

Foreign correspondent Neely Tucker and his wife, Vita, arrived in Zimbabwe in 1997. After witnessing firsthand the devastating consequences of AIDS on the population, especially the children, the couple started volunteering at an orphanage that was desperately underfunded and short-staffed. One afternoon, a critically ill infant was brought to the orphanage from a village outside the city. She’d been left to die in a field on the day she was born, abandoned in the tall brown grass that covers the highlands of Zimbabwe in the dry season. After a near-death hospital stay, and under strict doctor’s orders, the ailing child was entrusted to the care of Tucker and Vita. Within weeks Chipo, the girl-child whose name means gift, would come to mean everything to them.

Still an active correspondent, Tucker crisscrossed the continent, filing stories about the uprisings in the Congo, the civil war in Sierra Leone, and the postgenocidal conflict in Rwanda. He witnessed heartbreaking scenes of devastation and violence, steeling him further to take a personal role in helping anywhere he could. At home in Harare, Vita was nursing Chipo back to health. Soon she and Tucker decided to alter their lives forever—they would adopt Chipo. That decision challenged an unspoken social norm—that foreigners should never adopt Zimbabwean children.

Raised in rural Mississippi in the sixties and seventies, Tucker was familiar with the mores associated with and dictated by race. His wife, a savvy black woman whose father escaped the Jim Crow South for a new life in the industrial North, would not be deterred in her resolve to welcome Chipo into their loving family.

As if their situation wasn’t tenuous enough, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was stirring up national fervor against foreigners, especially journalists, abroad and at home. At its peak, his antagonizing branded all foreign journalists personae non grata. For Tucker, the only full-time American correspondent in Zimbabwe, the declaration was a direct threat to his life and his wife’s safety, and an ultimatum to their decision to adopt the child who had already become their only daughter.

Against a background of war, terrorism, disease, and unbearable uncertainty about the future, Chipo’s story emerges as an inspiring testament to the miracles that love—and dogged determination—can sometimes achieve. Gripping, heartbreaking, and triumphant, this family memoir will resonate throughout the ages.

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The bureaucrat was not a happy man, and it didn't take long to understand that I was the source of his irritation. Richard Tambadini was a senior officer in Zimbabwe's Department of Immigration Control. In May 1997, in a drab office in a dreary government building known as Liquenda House, he looked over my papers. He was slow, careful of speech, and so disdainful he seldom looked up.

"You have sent your belongings here ahead of yourself," he said, sounding as if he were reading from an indictment. "You presume that we will give you a work permit. You think little black Zimbabwe needs big white American men like you."

He paused and looked out the window at downtown Harare. A car alarm was going off on the street below, the repeated bleating of its horn drifting above the sound of midmorning traffic.

I shifted in my hard-back chair. This was becoming embarrassing. Vita and I had packed up our belongings from our previous posting in Warsaw, Poland, a few ...

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About This Book

When foreign correspondent Neely Tucker and his wife, Vita, are transferred from Warsaw, Poland, to Zimbabwe in 1997, they are thrilled with the assignment and eager to put down roots in their new home. Yet not even Tucker's hands-on experiences reporting from the most violent and lawless corners of the globe could prepare them for life at the epicenter of the worldwide AIDS epidemic. With an AIDS death approximately every twenty minutes, an average life span of thirty-eight, hundreds of thousands of babies orphaned or abandoned, and an acute, collective denial about the causes of the disease and the necessity of testing, the Zimbabwe the Tuckers encounter is a nation spiraling out of control. Tucker writes, "The ...
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    BookBrowse Awards
    2005

Reviews

BookBrowse

Love in The Driest Season won the 2005 BookBrowse Sapphire Award for Most Popular Debut. As such, BookBrowse, and the more than 1000 BookBrowse members who rated books as part of the 2005 Awards, recommend it highly!   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
The Washington Post - Adam Fifield

Tucker's writing is taut and vivid as he narrates his and his wife's tumultuous quest to adopt Chipo … This book is billed as A Family Memoir, but it is a cross between a foreign correspondent's dispatches and a family tale. Nor is Love in the Driest Season etched with the literary filigree that marks other books in the genre. But that does not diminish its importance and certainly not its readability. Ultimately it is the story of the evolution of a mother and father, whose determination to save a doomed child makes that child theirs.

Kirkus Reviews

The resilient lilt to Tucker's writing allows him, and the reader, to negotiate even the direst moments without despondency.

Publishers Weekly

This is a gorgeous mix of family memoir and reportage that traverses the big issues of politics, racism and war.

Library Journal - Janet Ingraham Dwyer

All this plus the impassioned story of a family facing recalcitrant bureaucracy and political pressure fill this brief book to bursting, but there are certainly no dull passages. Wholeheartedly recommended for public libraries.

Booklist - Kristine Huntley

Starred Review. Washington Post writer Tucker has written an affecting, powerful memoir of his struggles to adopt a baby girl in Zimbabwe......Tucker maintains a sense of immediacy throughout the book; the reader feels his frustration as he tries to track down various caseworkers, and his nervous energy as he and Vita receive the results of Chipo's HIV test. Utterly heartfelt and truly inspiring.

Reader Reviews
AJ

Beautiful
I just finished this book and wonder where I was when it first came out. I want everyone I know to read it not only for the story, but the history of what has happened in this part of Africa. It is beautiful, painfully human, the way the father ...   Read More

Veronica

Great read
This is a fantastic book! Not only does Tucker write about the grueling adoption process he and his wife endured, but he also informs the reader about the growing AIDS crisis, political corruption, war and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. I highly ...   Read More

Jennifer Johnson

What a wonderful book. Tucker makes a wonderful memoir to hand down to his daughter some day. It's filled with such love that my eyes welled up many times.

Tommie W

I loved this book I read it twice and have hear there may be a movie I can wait

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Beyond the Book

Zimbabwe (formerly known as Rhodesia) is a landlocked nation in the southern part of Africa surrounded by the countries of Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa.

According to the CIA Factbook, its population is approximately 12 million.  Per capita income is $1,900 and the % of those with AIDS/HIV is 34%. The official language is English with an adult literacy rate of 90%.

In 1965 the country declared its independence with the first free elections held in 1979.  Robert Mugabe (a committed Marxist) has been the nations first and only ruler since then, surviving through a canny combination of dirty politics and intimidation including a bit of ethnic ...

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