The Last Savanna by Mike Bond
Ian MacAdam, a white man who has lived most of his adult life in Kenya, joins a group to hunt down ivory poachers. Learning that the poachers have kidnapped an archaeologist with whom he had been involved several years prior, he strives to save her as well as capture the poachers. Meanwhile, the poachers’ story – their clan relationships, the circumstances that led them to poaching, what they hope to gain – is told in alternating chapters.
Bond touches on the “beauty of [Africa’s] perilous deserts, jungles, and savannas” (from the publisher’s description). The poachers and their pursuers travel vast distances through a multitude of ecosystems, encountering wildlife as varied as hyenas, elephants, and scorpions. And don’t forget the domesticated camels. These elements are fascinating.
Despite that, I did not enjoy this book. The publisher indicates this is a story of “the deep, abiding power of love.” I find no indication of abiding love, or in fact even fleeting love. Instead, it’s a story of men squabbling over women they want to own; jealousy that the other might be the first to rape a woman of the wrong skin color; and the ingrained belief that women are entirely evil and that their only worth is in providing service and children to men. The two women in this book (Dottie, MacAdam’s wife; and Rebecca, MacAdam’s mistress) bow to the narrative of the men in this book. MacAdam views the poacher-hunting as a way to re-capture love (or perhaps purpose) in his life, but to do so he spurns his wife who has begged him to re-engage with her.
Slap any label on it that you wish: freedom, religion, the urge to live life to the fullest. In the end, it boils down to pure selfishness.
I received an advance reader copy through NetGalley.