A chance encounter with two strangers in an archaeologist's camp in Tanzania sees Essie Lawrence returning to the research base with a baby in her arms. Essie is to care for the little girl until the coming of the rains. And then hand her back.
One to ponder with your reading group: is it possible to love, and then let go?
Discussion points and questions:
- Did Essie have any real choice when she was handed the baby by Nandamara?
- Ian becomes frustrated to see his wife acting in unfamiliar ways, yet in his work he believes that 'change is the only constant'. In what ways does change come to affect their marriage?
- Do you understand Julia’s decision to live the rest of her life in Magadi, ‘the heart of their agony’, where the closest thing to happiness was a day of good, hard work and the satisfaction of seeing the camp run smoothly?
- Simon believes himself to be a ‘modern Tanzanian’. In what ways is this so? What has he rejected of his Hadza past, and what does he reclaim?
- Carl travels the world taking photographs but still feels a pull back to a single place he calls ‘home’. Discuss the notion of home as it is explored in the novel.
- In a world where our extended families may not be all that close, emotionally or physically, how do we find ‘our tribe’?
- What makes someone a mother?
- How does Essie’s time with Mara transform her?
- What roles do possessions play in our lives? Are there lessons to be learned from the Hadza, in a world on the brink of environmental crisis?
- Do you agree with Kisani’s statement: ‘The past had to be left behind, so that something new could begin.’?
- The Masaai women tell Essie, ‘You are her mother at this moment. The future is another time.’ What do you think this means?
- At the conclusion of the novel, Essie says ‘though it hurt so much, what had taken place was the best possible ending for the story’. Do you agree?