Reviews and updates from Amber Foxx, author of the Mae Martin Psychic Mystery Series
It’s been a while since I was so deeply moved by a novel. I’ve read a lot of good books, but few as emotionally intense this one. The narrator, a Zimbabwean teenager, goes from an ordinary life in which he attends high school, runs on the cross country team, and is getting involved with a girl for the first time, to the diamond mines of Marange, at the instigation of his stepmother. She shows contempt for Patson’s father, a teacher, and his quiet, intellectual ways. Her demand to move the family in search of wealth is based on The Great Marange Diamond Rush, and the brutal actions of President Robert Mugabe’s soldiers are also based on actual events. After you read this, when you hear the phrase “blood diamonds” you’ll know what it means if you didn’t already, and when you hear the phrase “conflict-free diamonds” you’ll understand why that matters.
Patson’s transformation from regular kid to diamond miner and beyond are told in his narration, his journal entries, and his occasional text messages to his almost-girlfriend Sheena. He’s a believable hero, neither too perfect nor too weak. His relationships with his father, his remembered mother, his little sister, his fellow child miners, and the Congolese stranger and eventual ally Boubacar, are shown in depth. The story is at times an adventure, at times a nightmare, but always grounded in love. Characters go to great lengths to help each other. No one goes it alone. The story is African in that way. It’s not about how one person survives and wins, but how people struggle together. I found Patson’s strengths and limitations realistic for a teenaged boy in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. It takes him time to accept his father’s fate. He never seems able to articulate to himself what might have happened to his sister. Still, he’s resilient in the face of losses few of us can imagine, and capable of hope.
The end is beautiful—the ceremony and then the note—but don’t skip ahead to see why. Let it dawn on you in its fullness as the completion of an extraordinary story. This is labeled as Young Adult, for ages twelve and up, but that doesn’t make it light reading. I normally avoid YA books. In this case, I never felt as if I was reading one.
I acquired this book as an Advance Reading Copy at the Best of Santa Fe Block Party at the Railyard in July. Collected Works Bookstore was giving away ARCs to any booklover in Santa Fe who got to their table before the books ran out.