Book Review: After Kilimanjaro by Gayle Woodson

On Instagram, I came across the Booksparks programme. I took a chance and applied to read and review one of their books because the blurb interested me. I was happy when I received the email stating that I would be able to participate in promoting After Kilimanjaro by Gayle Woodson. The topic of the novel interested me, as well as the fact that it is set in an African country.

Genre: Adult Contemporary

Blurb:

Dr. Sarah Whitaker has always been an obedient overachiever, but she is burned out. Training to be a surgeon is stressful. So when her fiancé, David, offers a solution—take a break year at a hospital in Africa and climb Mount Kilimanjaro together—she jumps on board. When he backs out, she embarks on the adventure alone.

Sarah quickly falls in love with Tanzania, a land of gentle people, exotic wildlife, and stunning natural beauty, from the sands of Zanzibar to the peaks of Kilimanjaro. She also develops great respect for new Tanzanian friends: strong African women who strive to serve an overwhelming need for health care. Shocked by the high rate of maternal mortality and the scourge of female genital mutilation in the country, Sarah begins to speak out against FGM and develops an experimental program to train tribal birth attendants in a remote mountain village. Conditions are primitive there, and life is fragile.

The separation takes its toll on her relationship with David, and she fights against feelings for another man. As the months pass, one thing becomes clear: if Sarah survives this year, her life will never be the same again. 

My thoughts:

After Kilimanjaro surprised me and I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would. I expected a serious read and, although the main character shows the reader some serious issues, there were moments that made me smile (such as the budding romance between Sarah and one of her colleagues).

Woodson often makes references to the dire medical straits in Tanzania as well female genital mutilation (FGM). These references, however, are integrated seamlessly into the story and form a part of Sarah’s experience. The descriptions of the Tanzanian women’s experience are powerful and give the reader the opportunity to think about the African woman’s experience. To be honest, after reading these descriptions I did feel grateful to have grown up outside of this practice. Although the novel does not focus entirely on FGM, it does bring the issue up in the reader’s mind and encourages us to think about it.

This novel is truly about Sarah’s story. She is a woman who seems to be following the path that is expected of her by others. She moves off the path and spends a year in Tanzania working with people and in hospitals that have so far been out of her experience. She teaches others and passes on a lot of her knowledge. However, she also learns from the people she is teaching and from her patients. I love how she grows as a character in the story; how she finds her inner strength and the knowledge that she can change direction and follow a passion.

After Kilimanjaro is a contemporary read – but not like the ones I have read recently. The setting is different from the usual; and the experience of the characters is out of the norm. I enjoyed this read and would recommend it to any reader who is looking for a story about a woman who grows into herself; and whose experiences encourage her to change direction in her life.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 95th in my book pledge for 2019)

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