Fuller feels acutely that her ‘childhood place is broken’. In the aftermath of her father’s death everything that she assumed she’d love forever comes ‘tumbling’ down. She stops speaking to her sister and suffers a painful break-up with her lover, but the limits of her grief are tested beyond endurance when her 21-year-old son dies suddenly and unexpectedly. Fuller’s loving tribute to her father is written with tenderness and wit, yet some griefs are ineffable. When she finds herself ‘all the way down to the bone’, the only thing she can do is to turn to the life lessons her father taught her and ‘keep buggering on’.
I loved this book so much I was appalled. Why, when bookshops are stacked full of memoirs by authors who can’t write, isn’t Alexandra Fuller heaped up in perilous piles so near the till it’s impossible to evade her? This is like one of the most alluring Svetlana Alexievich testimonies, as if it had wandered out of the USSR and got lost in central Africa by way of a hospital in Budapest. It’s packed with exquisite jokes, quotes and details — such as when a doctor appears and ‘his gauzy green scrubs puffed out in great billows, the surgical-garb equivalent of Princess Di’s wedding dress’...The last time one of her books was reviewed here, Elisa Segrave wrote what now sounds akin to a curse: ‘I long for her to return to Africa, or, if not, simply to write about it again and again.’ I’d repeat the sentiment, and demand memoir upon memoir, if it weren’t for the devastation that hits at the end of this book.