It’s rare that a book gives me one of those “I’m about to cry” moments, but Love in the Driest Season: A Family Memoir was just one of those rare books. The last time a crying moment happened was when I was reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and the funny thing is, I barely remember that story line, but I definitely remember that it made me very emotional. The difference between the two books is that Love in the Driest Season was a much more positive, I’m-glad-it worked-out moment.
Love in the Driest Season is told by Neely Tucker, a foreign correspondent who traversed the globe and saw more misery and death than any human should in a lifetime. Shortly after getting married, Tucker accepted a post in Zimbabwe, thinking it would be just another reporting job. Tucker, a white man from Mississippi, and his African-American wife Vita packed up their belongings, and made the track to the capital city Harare. They found the country beautiful, but ravaged by AIDS; the effects of the disease were seen everywhere. Millions of children were orphaned with one or both parents dead, orphanages were overflowing and the government was ignoring the problem.
Wanting to help, Neely and Vita began volunteering at a local orphanage, with the intention of taking some kids home with them for the weekends. The first day there, they came across a tiny infant named Chipo, and instantly fell in love with the little girl. They found out that Chipo was abandoned at birth, thrown into a grass field with her umbilical cord still attached. She was found by some locals covered in blood and dirt, and eventually transported to the orphanage. Chipo was severely underweight, struggling to breath and to survive. Neely and Vita could not have kids of their own, and finding Chipo, they considered adoption to be a viable option.
Together, they nursed Chipo back to health, from a sickly baby with no responses, to a happy toddler. They also discovered the prejudices that exist against foreigners adopting Zimbabwean children, and battled with the system to keep their daughter.
In addition to being a beautiful family memoir of love and perseverance, Love in the Driest Season is a masterful account of the situation in Zimbabwe, as well as other African countries, at that time. Tucker talks about the effects of AIDS on the population, the senseless civil unrests going on in various regions, the bombing of the American embassy in Nairobi, the lack of order, the overly pompous leaders who care little about the people they govern, and so on.
Love in the Driest Season is just a wonderful memoir that will make you think, learn a thing or two, and maybe even have the “I’m about to cry” moment as well.