Book Review: 12 Days In Africa

12 Days In Africa:  A Mother’s Journey, by Lisa Sanders

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/WestBow Press in exchange for an honest review.]

Although this book is a short one, it manages to combine a lot of elements that make it a warm and compelling and deeply personal read.  If you want to get a proper set of expectations for this book, going into it, picture part humorous travelogue [1], part infomercial for the author’s organization, Hope4Kids, which helps struggling children in Uganda [2], and part exploration of the gratitude that comes from knowing how people live in poorer countries.  Throughout it all the author demonstrates herself to be a good-humored and deeply sympathetic Westerner, the kind who would adopt waifish street children fairly readily.  On a larger level, this book provides a defense of the mini-missionary trips that are popular among many people, not only as a way for mother-son bonding as is talked about here, but as a way that people who cannot commit years of their lives to foreign mission work can serve in smaller chunks of time in a sort of socially conscious religious tourism that lasted, for the case of the author of this book, for 12 days in Africa.

In reading this book I expected a chronological order of material, like a travel diary, but the result was more complicated.  The author divided her book into roughly twelve chapters, including such areas as the surprises she found, as well as her experiences in traveling, her own health problems with migraines, the duties she and her son did while they were in Africa involving digging wells and teaching children.  The author not only includes her own discussions, and gives a lot of praise to her son and the other people working with her, but also gives space for some of the people in Uganda on a more permanent basis, including some of the Ugandan children themselves, to discuss their experiences and also gives her son a chance to talk about how harrowing it was to try to pass out prescriptions to the many sick people who came looking for help.  One gets the sense from reading the book that the author took her brief time in Africa very seriously, setting a good example for those who would wish to do likewise in spending a few weeks in a country like Uganda seeking to go a great deal of good in a little time in the midst of a busy life.

It should be noted that although this is an inspirational book that it includes material that is deeply unpleasant and unsettling.  The author does not sugarcoat the informality of many marital and family relationships, the pervasive influence of witchcraft in many areas, the problems with spousal abuse and alcohol addiction, and perhaps most harrowing, the experience many children and young women have with frequent rape as a result of doing such simple tasks as fetching the water from local wells in the face of harassment and abuse from local men [3].  The author gives the grim statistics on the high rate of infant and child mortality and the rampant spread of AIDS in the face of promiscuity and a total absence of moral and social infrastructure.  This book is not for the faint of heart, and appears to have been written by someone who was genuinely shocked at the conditions she saw, not having been fully aware of just how difficult life was in Sub-Saharan African.  The book is a mother’s journey, and certainly aims at the heartstrings, but readers should be aware that this is an account that is pretty grim at times and certainly real enough to discuss going to the bathroom alongside the road, and its ultimate optimistic tone is not one that ignores the difficulties of life in a fallen world.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

[3] See, for example:


About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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5 Responses to Book Review: 12 Days In Africa

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