Thank you Diane Donovan for this wonderful review. Diane has her own literary services and reviews books for her own website (Donovan’s Literary Services) and for Midwest Review of Books. I’m delighted to be featured on both.
A Thousand Flying Things
Kathryn Brown Ramsperger
978-1956851649 $16.99 Paper/$8.99 ebook
Set in the early 1990s in Sudan, A Thousand Flying Things lives up to its title by being many things—among them, a romance story, a story of humanitarian aid and UN efforts, and a chronicle of the conflict that erupts between work and love when an opportunity of the past returns to present-day efforts to change the most well-meaning of intentions.
The last thing UN worker Dianna saw coming was an opportunity to rekindle a romance that took place in Lebanon. Her efforts to help children in the Sudan have resulted in terrible realizations about the politics and abuse of foreign aid programs, the power of local tribal warlords to kidnap and train child fighters, and threats to her own life.
Her presence in Africa is filled with idealism, practicality, and dangerous realizations:
“These children mean everything to her because her presence in Africa is what she has left. She has a year to reach them. A year from now, most will join the fighting, or the dead. Reaching even one would be enough reward for the time spent in this restless, ragged heat. Reaching a few would be a miracle. Books are her only tool.”
What she had no anticipation of was the return of a prospect she had long set aside for bigger-picture thinking.
The special value of this story lies in its exploration of UN protocol and moral and ethical issues that arise from these best intentions gone awry. Dianna’s moments of realization and reinvention drive her story, keeping its insights and revelations on track and thought-provoking:
“I would have realized he was just one more soul in a vast array of souls that all need our help. I would not have singled him out. Nor would I have if I’d enlisted team assistance. Acted according to U.N. protocol. Taken the appropriate steps.”
She pauses and looks around the room. All eyes are on her but with looks of empathy, not disapproval.
“That is why I am requesting a less arduous position in Addis Ababa, where I will be a team member instead of a teacher. I would enjoy the camaraderie, brainstorming, and protection of a team. I will not ever allow this kind of circumstance to happen again. Never.”
Qasim’s allure and her realizations about loves past and present feature a fascinating juxtaposition of subjects that keeps readers engaged on different levels. The personal and political inspections that evolve from Dianna’s ambitions and connections are astute and realistic:
“Did love bring happiness? Did it bring power? Didn’t Solomon’s Biblical love song say that love was as strong as death? Now that was power.”
The resulting saga of shifting core values, contrasts between Dianna’s white American Christian roots and how they will (or won’t) dovetail with Qasim’s Lebanese Muslim family, and focus on diversity and choice is highly recommended for libraries and readers seeking evocative works that will also fuel powerful book club discussions.