Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Atlas of Forgotten Places

Rate this book
With the empathy of Little Bee and the political intrigue of Blood Diamond, a gripping story of two women from different worlds who become inextricably bound in a quest to save their loved ones.

The Atlas of Forgotten Places is that rare novel that delivers an exquisite portrait of family and love within a breathlessly, thrilling narrative.

After a long career as an aid worker, Sabine Hardt has retreated to her native Germany for a quieter life. But when her American niece Lily disappears while volunteering in Uganda, Sabine must return to places and memories she once thought buried in order to find her. In Uganda, Rose Akulu—haunted by a troubled past with the Lord’s Resistance Army—becomes distressed when her lover Ocen vanishes without a trace. Side by side, Sabine and Rose must unravel the tangled threads that tie Lily and Ocen’s lives together—ultimately discovering that the truth of their loved ones’ disappearance is inescapably entwined to the secrets the two women carry.

Masterfully plotted and vividly rendered by a fresh new voice in fiction, The Atlas of Forgotten Places delves deep into the heart of compassion and redemption through a journey that spans geographies and generations to lay bare the stories that connect us all.

368 pages, Hardcover

First published July 11, 2017

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Jenny D. Williams

2 books71 followers
JENNY D. WILLIAMS has lived in the U.S., Uganda, and Germany. She holds an MFA from Brooklyn College and a BA from UC Berkeley. Her award-winning fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and illustrations have been published in The Sun Magazine, Vela, and Ethical Traveler, as well as several anthologies. A former Teachers & Writers Collaborative fellow and recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation grant for emerging writers, she currently lives in Seattle with her dog. The Atlas of Forgotten Places is her first novel.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
190 (33%)
4 stars
251 (44%)
3 stars
105 (18%)
2 stars
22 (3%)
1 star
2 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 157 reviews
Profile Image for Adina.
793 reviews3,065 followers
July 12, 2017

The Atlas of Forgotten Places was one of the rare books that I read without previously hearing anything about it or the author. I went in blind, guided only by the beautiful cover and the interesting blurb. I am delighted to have given this one a chance.

The novel is told in 3rd person from the point of view of two women: Sabine, former aid worker who spent 15 years in African countries and now returned to her native Germany and Rose, a former child soldier in the Uganda LRA rebel army. Although in the beginning they have nothing in common, their paths intersect when Sabine’s niece and Rose’s boyfriend disappear in Uganda. As it seems that both disappearances were connected, the two women have to join forces in order to recover their loved ones.

Although the novel is sold as a mystery and adventure story it is so much more. It is a novel about family drama, about loss, war, pain in all its forms and struggle for survival. I learned a great deal about the Ugandan civil war and. It felt like an adventure to travel with the characters around the neighboring countries and to research on the Internet more information about Ugandan history and politics. The journey was also painful as I discovered that returning child soldiers are rejected by their families, exactly when they needed more support. I once again found myself surprised and horrified by the extent of human cruelty towards people and not only. I got to know more about the illegal ivory trade, which represents an important source of funds for the African wars and, as you might know, have almost extinguished the White Rhino population and decreased the number of elephants.

The author lived in Uganda and I could see that in the novel, as it was clear that she knew some of the places she described, they came alive under my eyes. The writing was pleasant, correct without too much flourishing. The characters could have been more rounded but they did not lack in complexity and their background stories were interesting and explained their behavior.

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,693 reviews14.1k followers
July 15, 2017
Sabine had been an aid worker in various parts of Africa for over fourteen years, but now in her forties she is working in her native Germany. Her niece Lily, following in her footsteps has been working in Uganda, at a center that helps victims that had been taken by Joseph Kony, trying to help them reintegrate into life out of captivity. When she goes missing in Uganda, Sabine returns to try to retrace her nieces footsteps, and bring her home.

With two people she meets in Uganda we follow Sabine from Uganda to the Congo, Garamba National Park and into the heart of one of Kony's camps. This is an intense look at a country being torn apart by various factions, and a story that had me in it's grip almost from the beginning. I kept telling myself, it is only a story, but in fact it is and it isn't. Although the characters are the authors invention, many of the situations and danger they find themselves in are fact. The kidnappings, the killings, the gold mine and the ivory poaching are also all fact. I am a big lover of elephants and there are some sad moments , and astonishing ones concerning these great but empathic animals.

The characters were well done, as was the writing. An authors nite is included which provided additional information and suggestion for further reading. The greed of man knows no bounds.

ARC from Netgalley.
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,329 followers
July 22, 2017
The Atlas of Forgotten Places is a tough but worthy read. It takes place primarily in contemporary Uganda and the Republic of Congo. Sabine, who lives in Germany, learns that her niece Lilly has gone missing in Uganda. Sabine herself had spent many years doing relief work in Uganda and so she goes there to try to find her niece. The story is told from Sabine's point of view and from Rose's point of view. Rose is native to Uganda and has a sad painful history. Rose and Sabine's stories eventually come together as part of the search for Lilly. This is not a novel of beautiful writing or subtle literary sensibilities. The writing is straightforward, and the view of personal and collective suffering is unflinching. There is a strong political undercurrent, but it doesn't come across as naive or didactic. And this for me is the book's strength. Williams does an excellent job of portraying a complex political situation as experienced by people with complex emotions and motivations. This is a messy, violent and complicated world. The impulse to help may be well meaning, but it is never selfless and can do more harm than good. The people caught up in violent conflict can be brutal but they often started as children trying to survive and missing their parents. The root causes include colonialism and continued western greed, but this is not a reason to absolve the brutality of the leaders who lead children into war. In the end, this is a story seen from a European perspective -- which is definitely different than if it had been written by someone originally from Uganda -- but I appreciated that the author is careful to avoid stereotypes or simple explanations. Recommended for those interested in this area of the world, but go in knowing what you are getting into. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
Profile Image for Ioana.
274 reviews341 followers
October 11, 2017
I walked into this book with trepidation: a white woman writing about aid work in Uganda has all the trappings of a potentially condescending, 'well meaning' novel tinged with paternalistic racist overtones. Alternatively it could easily have also taken on a self-flaggelatory flavor in its attempt to make up for the imperialistic ethos of aid-work. But, The Atlas of Forgotten Places turned out instead to strike a seemingly impossible, delicate balance between these two extremes.

Williams offers an emphatically attuned story that portrays both white aid workers and native Ugandans with a similarly even, perceptive voice that takes as a starting point the underlying similarities in the human experiences of suffering, especially as caused by separation from those one loves. And, I also appreciated the perspective that is not marred by the distinctly Western romantic optimism that seems to bleed out of so many novels/movies/shows coming out of Europe or the States at present (those works that, despite portraying some difficult situation, ultimately leave the reader with a sense of explicit 'hope'). Atlas is realist, first and foremost - whatever sense of restoration or redemption one may garner from imbibing the story is the reader's decision alone, not a feeling that is spoon-fed by Williams.

I loved this novel for many reasons in addition to that detailed above, such as, it forged the impetus for me to learn more about a region I had little knowledge of previously. Williams offers some of the background, but not more than is needed to further the story; still, for the curious, she offers the opportunity for as many questions as a motivated reader has time for. I found this to be one of the rare books that I wanted to read side by side with an open-tablet, perusing Wikipedia and other summaries on Ugandan history, the Lord Resistance Army and its leader, Joseph Kony, regional topography, and more.

Additionally, Williams' voice is engaging and her storytelling skills are to be envied by any veteran novelist, thus Atlas is not only a good first history lesson on Uganda/LRA but is also a truly fabulous, thrilling, well-paced adventure. Alternating perspectives between a woman looking for her niece who has disappeared in the Ugandan forests and a Ugandan woman who has lost her lover in the same way, Williams weaves a compelling story that induces the reader to continue, breathless regardless of whether s/he has been fully captured by the historical context/setting.

Hard to believe this is Williams' first novel. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Lori Elliott (catching up).
724 reviews1,764 followers
July 10, 2017
Williams brings to vivid life the Ugandan civil war through the voices of Sabine, a former aid worker who returns to Uganda to search for her missing niece, and Rose, a young Ugandan woman who has a former connection to the rebels. There are no winners in war, only those that have lost & those that have lost more. Novels like this are important because they not only entertain, but they educate in a way that brings humanity and understanding to these conflicts. The only criticism I have is that the ending was abrupt... wish there had been more closure. 4 stars.
Profile Image for Jennifer Blankfein.
379 reviews647 followers
September 26, 2017
Follow me on https://booknationbyjen.wordpress.com for reviews and recommendations.

Don’t let this exceptional new novel fall under the radar! Based on war-torn Africa and the innocent people caught in the middle, the stunning debut, The Atlas of Forgotten Places by Jenny D. Williams takes us to Uganda where a young girl, Lily, goes missing. The authorities are hard to come by and disorganized, so her aunt, Sabine, a former aid worker, travels from Germany to the village where she was last seen, to trace Lily’s steps and try to understand if she was in danger and kidnapped, or if she had a motive to disappear. At the same time, a Ugandan woman, Rose, previously kidnapped and emotionally and physically abused by the Lord’s Resistance Army but now back in her village, is looking for her missing boyfriend, Ocen. Sabine and Rose work together to unravel the intertwined lives of their loved ones, leading them back to their own deep, dark secrets.

Having had aid work experience herself, author Jenny D. Williams takes us on a vividly portrayed journey through Uganda, and this incredible story was inspired by real events. In 1996 there was an abduction of 139 school girls from St. Mary’s College in northern Uganda. Operation Lighting Thunder was the name of the military action by the Ugandan government against LRA forces. In the book, one of the characters talks about the problems there saying “The conflict in Congo is probably the most complicated war in the world. Two wars, technically, in the last twenty years, but they overlap quite a bit. Nine African nations. Twenty armed groups. Five and a half million people dead, mostly from disease and starvation. Large-scale fighting has been occurring in various provinces since Rwanda invaded eastern Congo – it was Zaire, then – 1996. Ever since, the country has been mired in one conflict after another.”

Jenny D. Williams has traveled and lived in Uganda and then to Germany where she wrote the book. Her knowledge of the country is evident and her complex characters slowly reveal themselves as we learn about their pasts. With beautifully expressed emotion and character complexity Williams allowed me to feel the pain and struggles as the story progressed. She provided insight into why the characters are who they are, giving them dimension.

During the frantic search for her niece, Sabine recalls her deceased sister’s comment about being a mother, “It feels as though a piece of my heart exists outside my own body, in another person. And I can never get it back.” Sabine is introspective and recognizes why she will never have children, “why would you want a piece of your heart in such a precarious location as someone else’s body? Why choose that uncertainty, that terror, that utter lack of control? As she grew older, this approach extended to lovers and friends, because how could she do her job if her heart was elsewhere? Love made you selfish; love made you choose some above others. And so all these many years later, her heart was lonely but whole. Unseen – but intact.”

Visit www.JennyDWilliams.com for more from the author and pick up a copy of The Atlas of Forgotten Places; Beautiful writing and chock full of emotion, this suspenseful, historically rich debut is not to to be missed.
Profile Image for Alena.
848 reviews219 followers
August 8, 2017
A terrific and compelling novel set against the war and unrest in Uganda. Williams does and excellent job holding the tension and pace throughout the entire book, making me want to turn each page. Even though the language is pretty straightforward, I still felt a great sense of place.

I especially enjoyed the slow unveiling of the character's background stories even while the action of the plot drove relentlessly forwarded. Both Rose and Sabine are complicated, but likable protagonists.

Sure, I could quibble with a few too many contrived situations and the underdeveloped love stories, but really, the few weaknesses didn't get in the way of an overall excellent read.
Profile Image for Marialyce (absltmom, yaya).
1,938 reviews722 followers
May 17, 2017
3.5 stars
Have read this through the courtesy of NetGallery

This tale of oppression, grief, and loss has as its background the war that took place in northern Uganda. The fictional part of this novel portrays the loss felt by an aunt, a step father, and a young woman who had previously been captured by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda. This was has been going on since the 1980's.

The women of this story come from two vastly different environments. Sabine, a former aid worker living in Germany, is forced to return to both the country of Uganda, and the bad memories, as she takes it upon herself to search for her missing niece Lily. Rose, the former member of the LRA, who escaped their brutality while being a part of this LRA, finds herself thrown back into the fray because the man she loves Ocen is missing. The two women link together because of loved ones missing and this link becomes the gist of the story. How these women with the help of some others eventually find their loved ones, and the resulting trauma they suffer provides a tale that is so telling of the strife many have experienced in various nations in Africa. It also is a tale of how many people can turn their lives into something where they forget where they came from as they get caught up in the battle for what they believe is a just cause, and ultimately lose themselves to the dark nature that man often shows.

The author relates in fine detail the experiences that Rose has both been a part of and witness to during her years with the LRA. Rose's life as well as those who were forced through being kidnapped from family, is a life of killing, of living a nomadic lifestyle, of suffering brutality and becoming immune to it.

Families torn apart because of war is always a tale of sadness and one that seems to be told too many times in the lives of all those who have been lost in conflicts across this planet. The author was able to capture the look and feel of Africa so well. She was also able to make us feel that sense of loss that her characters felt.
Profile Image for Kate Olson.
2,126 reviews724 followers
July 8, 2017
In striking contrast, THE ATLAS OF FORGOTTEN PLACES, manages to be incredibly beautiful while set against one of the most horrifying backdrops imaginable. This is the second book I have read in the past month about the Ugandan Civil War and Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army (the first being the YA novel SOLDIER BOY by Keely Hutton), and I just can not stop thinking about how much most of us in the US do not, but should, know about the horrors of this conflict.

ATLAS brings us a small glimpse of this world through a fictional lens, into the lives of Sabine (a German former aid worker) and a Rose (a Ugandan woman with a tragic past) as they search for Sabine's missing niece in the most dangerous of places. Williams weaves the story with suspense and heartbreaking questions of whether it is ever possible to atone for the sins of others and whether the international aid community can truly save the world.

This book covers a vital and heavy topic while being intensely readable. One of the must-read books of summer 2017, THE ATLAS OF FORGOTTEN PLACES will haunt readers in the most necessary of ways.

Note: The author's note in this book provides extensive history and authenticity to the true events that are the setting for the story. 

Thank you to the author for providing me with a advance copy of this novel for review - all opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
Author 2 books942 followers
May 2, 2017
This absolutely captivating story is at once a suspense-filled search for a missing girl, a heartbreaking tale about life as overshadowed by the activities of the Lord's Resistance Army, and a meditation on finding the courage to do the right thing, even when that means putting your own self in danger. Told through dual perspectives -- that of a German woman who returns to East Africa, where she spent 18 years working, to search for her missing American niece; and that of a young Ugandan woman whose close friend also vanished at the same time as the American -- this is a book you won't soon forget.
Profile Image for Lisa Duffy.
Author 4 books274 followers
July 11, 2017
This suspenseful debut is impossible to put down. Interweaving the voices of Sabine, a former aid worker who returns to Uganda to search for her missing niece, and Rose, a young Ugandan woman with a painful past, Jenny D. Williams masterfully combines a thrilling mystery with brilliant character portrayal and stunning authoritative background detail. Powerful, vivid and emotionally complex, The Atlas of Forgotten Places is a must read.
Profile Image for Sandi Ward.
Author 5 books195 followers
June 25, 2017
This is a fascinating and engrossing novel about human compassion in the face of war and unrest.

A German woman named Sabine returns to Africa after years away to try and locate her niece, who has disappeared while volunteering. She is joined in her search by Rose, a native Ugandan trying to find her partner Ocen, who they determine was helping Sabine’s niece. They are thwarted by political events; it's a story about rebellion, displaced persons, violence, kidnapping—ultimately, the horrors of war and the way it upends and disrupts lives.

My knowledge of Africa is limited to a few newspaper articles and stories from my brother-in-law, who was with the State Department in Kenya for a few years. But it isn’t necessary to know anything about Africa to jump right into this story. The writing is lovely and I was easily transported to different settings for which I have no reference point. The pacing is quick and the action very exciting as the characters find themselves deeper in danger as they hunt down their loved ones.

The conflicts in Africa—the conflict in this story being one of many—are complex, but this book was able to illuminate for me the struggles of Uganda and make them feel personal. I highly recommend this very beautiful, thoughtful and well-written story.
Profile Image for Stacey A.  Prose and Palate.
357 reviews115 followers
July 9, 2017
“Ocen is a part of this too. We haven’t forgotten him. It’s just easier to spur people to action when it’s an American life at stake.” The injustice of this truth should have outraged her. Tens of thousands of abducted Acholi children, tens of thousands more slaughtered at the rebels’ hands; how many dead and dying in IDP camps? How many dead and dying in Faradje, in yesterday’s bus attack? Ah, but should a mono girl be among them! Then we may intervene; then we may act. She felt nothing. She’d heard this story before.

Gorgeously executed and stunning in scope, The Atlas of Forgotten Places is a novel I will be recommending to others for years to come. Williams expertly crafts a thought provoking tale as she examines a brutal time in Africa’s history and spotlights with great empathy the people who have suffered and are still suffering at the hands of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army. The story follows Sabine as she receives word that her American niece Lily (who has been volunteering as an aid worker in Uganda) is missing. Sabine herself worked for years in Africa so she hops on the next available flight to go in search of her niece. Shortly after her arrival in Uganda, Sabine learns much to her horror, that Lily has been captured by Joseph Kony and the LRA. Determined to retrieve Lily and bring her home, Sabine enlists the help of her former colleague and aid worker Christoph along with Rose, an African woman whose lover has also gone missing with Lily. Unbeknownst to Sabine and Christoph, Rose is silently struggling with herself, harboring dark secrets of her past. Together the three of them embark upon a harrowing and dangerous journey that will leave them face to face with some of the most brutal men of our day.

Williams takes information that is at times unfathomable and writes it in such a manner that you are riveted to your seat, eyes never leaving the page. This novel is heartbreaking and yet hopeful; a gorgeous testament to compassion and forgiveness. My heart broke for Rose and the brutality that she suffered in her past and then again by the humiliating stigma that followed her wherever she went. I recognized my younger self in Lily, headstrong and naïve, thinking she can go out and save the world just by her sheer determination and passion. And I haven’t even begun to talk about the elephants. Any one who knows me knows I am crazy passionate about elephant conservation, so to have this theme weaved in to this story so well almost did me completely in. Elephant poaching is a very real threat that goes hand in hand with rebel fighters in that they can sell the ivory on the black market to purchase ammunition and weapons. Today, Joseph Kony remains at large. It is estimated that he has abducted over 66,000 children and millions of people have been displaced to government camps fleeing his armies. Thank you Jenny D. Williams for writing such a powerful, stunning, and haunting debut.
Profile Image for Elise Hooper.
Author 4 books672 followers
April 16, 2017
Stunning, heartrending, and hopeful, this triller plunged me into Uganda and the lives of Sabine, a former aid worker from Germany, and Rose, a Ugandan with a mysterious past. These two very different women develop a complicated partnership in their quest to find their missing loved ones. With beautiful prose and relentless pacing, Jenny D. Williams has created a story that has stuck with me long since finishing it.
Profile Image for Devin Murphy.
Author 8 books169 followers
May 28, 2017
The Atlas of Forgotten Places is a relentless heart-punch of a book! I was pulled in by this stunning story from the start and switching back and forth between the two main characters, Sabine, an ex-aide worker, and Rose, a Ugandan woman made this hard to put down. Both women are complex, mysterious, and fully rendered in such a way that I feel they will both haunt me for a long time. They become guides to the menacing and lovely country of Uganda which is brilliantly portrayed in these pages, but also a place where people disappear. The writing is wonderful, and with this first book Jenny Williams becomes a writer I will praise and eagerly await any new work from. I highly recommend this one.
Profile Image for Mainlinebooker.
1,078 reviews60 followers
June 15, 2017
Every once in a while, along comes a novel that won't leave you, that keeps you up at night contemplating important questions.Williams has constructed a novel that fits beautifully into this category. Based on real and imagined events set in the DNC and Uganda, this novel follows Sabine, a burned out aid worker who currently works in an animal shelter in Germany, Rose, a one armed Ugandan woman who was formerly abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army, and Lily, a young girl doing volunteer work in Uganda, and Sabine's niece. When Lily does not return home as scheduled, Sabine races to Africa to see if she can find her, fearing the worst. What follows is a tromp through LRA battlegrounds, fighting through bureaucratic minefields with Rose and her boss.Both Rose and Sabine are looking for someone lost in their lives that they care deeply about. Williams has achingly sketched the principal characters with such a fine point pen, that they leap off the page, making us invested in their futures.There is so much to discuss and learn in this book that it is perfect for book groups. My only gripe is the open ended conclusion to the book, which left me angry as I needed more closure. However, it is a small price to pay for a book of such depth..
Profile Image for Mel.
688 reviews38 followers
January 14, 2018
Absolutely stunning. Fans of Bianca Marais’ Hum If You Don’t Know the Words or Lesley Arimah’s What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky will like this. Written with the complexities of a Karin Slaughter mystery and the human agony of MR Carey’s Girl with All the Gifts— Williams follows Sabine, a German aid worker turned pet shelter employee, whose American niece Lily, daughter of Sabine’s deceased sister Hannah, has gone missing during her first aid mission in Uganda. Rose, a shattered soul who made it out of Ugandan rebel camps after nearly a decade, is missing her beau, Ocen, the twin of Rose’s first boyfriend who was also taken to the LRA camps years before. After her ultimate “burnout” Sabine is forced to fly back to the familiar Kitgum, Uganda to set out in search of her niece in spite of the lackluster help offered by local and international authorities.

The backstories of the German, Ugandan, American and Swiss (Christoph, anthropologist & employer of Rose) are incredibly enmeshed. There were several shocking moments along the way and I rooted for the characters to make it out of the bush together, and alive. Another splendid piece of this picture is the plethora of strong female archetypes. This is a seriously impressive debut novel.
Profile Image for Kelly Ford.
Author 4 books196 followers
May 28, 2017
The Atlas of Forgotten Places hooked me from start to finish.

Williams is such a beautiful, masterful writer at both the sentence and story level. I settled in and took this one slow so I could relish her rich prose and descriptions, which rendered Rose, Sabine, and Uganda fully alive. But there was nothing languid about the pace as these two women head out into dangerous territory in search of their loved ones, who have gone missing. My favorite books spark my curiosity and send me down the internet rabbit hole to learn more when I've reached the end. That's certainly the case here. Easily one of the best books I've read this year.
Profile Image for Kathleen Flynn.
Author 1 book393 followers
July 29, 2017
Usually I am skeptical of publisher's overheated descriptions of novels, but "an exquisite portrait of family and love within a breathlessly thrilling narrative" is a remarkably accurate description of THE ATLAS OF FORGOTTEN PLACES. It's about a search for lost loved ones in a setting that is beautiful and dangerous and (at least to me) strange, while the real quest, what makes it so unforgettable, is the search for love and meaning. There are so many places this could have verged off into the melodramatic and didn't. I loved the characters and the carefully wrought (but never precious) writing, while the mystery and adventure had me spellbound.
Profile Image for Literary Chic.
212 reviews3 followers
June 26, 2017
A Goodreads Giveaway and a beautiful novel about redemption and atonement. Each storyline was tied up nicely. (I say this because a familial storyline seemed to be way off in left field until the last few chapters.) Apparently this book is getting kudos from NPR and other outlets. I think the accolades are well deserved. I probably wouldn't have picked it up without the giveaway, but I'll certainly be touting it to my fiction-loving friends.
Profile Image for Kate Brandes.
Author 3 books93 followers
June 23, 2017
Jenny Williams's debut novel, The Atlas of Forgotten Places, is a thrilling, complex read. She develops a deep sense of place and wonderful characters for the reader. Williams has written this vivid dual narrative, with keen emotional intelligence. This novel is not to be missed.
Profile Image for Sarah Menkedick.
Author 6 books40 followers
May 17, 2017
I could not put this book down. I work and am also the mother of a toddler, so I have very little time to read, and what time I do have is precious. The fact that I looked so forward to this book at the end of a long day is a testament to its beauty and also to the masterful, gripping plot at its heart. I felt so invested in the characters and also in the moral issues that drive the story–it is rare to read a novel that addresses these big, difficult, heartbreaking questions and this one does so with such compassion and vivid insight. I've thought about it again and again in the past few days, when I read the news, making decisions in my own life. As a traveler, particularly, it struck me: what right do we have to attempt to "help" or "save" those in other countries? How connected can we be to those from vastly different backgrounds? What unites and separates us? This is a book that does not shy from such questions in a way that is never preachy, never simplified, but resonant and heart-wrenching.
Profile Image for Adriana Arrington.
Author 2 books20 followers
June 20, 2017
An exceptional novel. Williams masterfully weaves a story that resonates on several different levels. At face value, the novel is about the quest that two women undertake to find their missing loved ones. At a deeper level, it's about how the best, but misplaced, intentions can lead to disaster. This theme carries throughout the novel at both a micro level (personal decisions) and macro level (modern-day Western policy in Africa).

I'll think about this novel for awhile. Williams doesn't leave the reader with any easy answers, but rather with thought-provoking questions. When we look to help others, what are our real motives? Could these motives and their ramifications prove to be more detrimental than the original problem?

I loved this novel. The story itself is engrossing, with vivid characterizations and settings. But the heart of the novel- its examination of burden/privilege - is what will stick with me for a long time.

I highly recommend this novel.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Debbie.
1,751 reviews95 followers
July 14, 2017
I absolutely loved this book. A book filled with family, love, friendship, action and suspense set in Africa during the revolutionary war in Uganda and the Congo.

Sabine, who has retired from a long career of aid work to Germany, discovers that her niece, Lily, who went to Uganda to follow in her aunt's footsteps, is missing. Lily was scheduled to come home for the holidays, however, she was not on the plane when it landed. Sabine knows that the only way she is going to find her niece is to go to Uganda herself and look into the matter.

What she finds there is so different from how it was when she was there as an aid worker. There has been a revolutionary war and poverty is everywhere. Families are missing family members and it seems everyone is trying to find their loved ones. However, with Lily being white, she hopes that this will put a spark under everyone and Lily will be found easily and safely. That does not happen.

The story of Sabine's journey is filled with action and suspense. I sped right through this book totally engrossed. Jenny D. Williams has done a great job in this, her debut novel. The writing and how she plotted everything was impeccable.

A book filled with emotion, surprises, and lots and lots of danger which I found very entertaining. I would definitely read this author's next book!

Thanks to St. Martin's Press and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
Profile Image for Sheri.
1,195 reviews
May 18, 2018
So I feel like people liked this because it was war and Africa and it is PC to like it. I didn't really feel like it was real or authentic. Everything was way too convenient with Christophe, Sabine and Rose's treck to find Lily and Ocen, especially when they first crossed the border and the nice American who runs the gold mine took them in. The whole bus attack on the way to the National Park and their escape in the jungle felt like Romancing the Stone. And the end with everyone in the jungle at once INCLUDING Kony was just too much. Overall it was a page turner, highly constructed adventure story, but it wasn't really subtle or meaningful.

The writing was melodramatic and the whole reason for Sabine and Lily to need to be an aid worker (their grandfather and great grandfather didn't help the Jews in Nazi Germany?) was unbelievable. It made the characters feel ridiculous.

Overall it was fine, but the story was trite when it could have been deeper. Ultimately it is probably a 2 star book, but I gave it an extra star just because the she killed off a few of the main characters in the end.
Profile Image for Renee Rutledge.
Author 2 books20 followers
July 7, 2017
Jenny Williams emerges as a gifted storyteller with her breathtaking debut. As the stories of Sabine, a former aid worker, and Rose, a wounded abductee returned to her native village in Uganda, intersect in search of the missing, we come to understand the depth of their afflictions, which are as haunting as the war-torn landscape that Williams paints with sensitivity and skill. Her characters are multidimensional, as we see in the soldiers who would capture children but were themselves once captured; true, as the majestic elephants defending the lives of their young; and, by the end of the novel, somehow redeemed, living with and in spite of their family shame. I recommend this moving and enlightening read.
348 reviews
July 14, 2017
A page turner. Also a really interesting and valuable exploration of international aid work and how the Western world's intervention in Africa (in this case, Uganda), has often hurt more than it has helped (and of course, that's even aside from colonialism's impact on Africa).
Profile Image for Heather Fineisen.
1,143 reviews112 followers
October 15, 2017
A good book on the ivory trade and the LRA. The weakness in the story was, for me, the ending. A few surprises but things came together easily in what was otherwise a believable novel.

Copy provided by the Publisher and NetGalley.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 157 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.